Mendocino County prosecutors behind closed doors are claiming a key witness’ unwillingness to testify and an inability to locate her led to the dismissal of the most serious sex charges against Ukiah Police Sergeant Kevin Murray.
But the woman’s Oakland attorney says that is false.
“My client was hesitant but prepared to testify,” said Panos Lagos, a noted civil attorney who is experienced in police misconduct cases across Northern California.
Lagos said, “She hasn’t gone anywhere. She is in Sacramento where she has always been.”
District Attorney David Eyster and his deputy prosecutor Heidi Larson have repeatedly declined to comment on the reasoning behind the sweetheart plea bargain they struck with Murray and his lawyers. Privately, they have been telling people the case collapsed after the City of Ukiah agreed to pay the victim a settlement. They have been saying that the victim since receiving the settlement has been difficult to locate and relied upon for trial. The suggestion is she might have even left the state, and her whereabouts unknown.
Lagos said he is in a state of disbelief. “I thought the District Attorney and his investigators had this case dialed in.”
“The DA had the evidence to win this case decisively,” said Lagos.
Lagos said he inquired about the status of the case but did not receive any call back from the DA’s Office. “That’s not typical,’ he said.
“My client received a call, but she was under the impression Murray would be forever barred from being a police officer again, and that he would have to register as a sex offender. She had no idea until now that it was being suggested she was the reason prosecution efforts collapsed.”
Eyster and Larson did not respond Friday to questions about Lagos’ assertions. In the past month, they have ignored two separate written requests asking specific questions about the plea deal.
Lagos said prosecutors had significant evidence including statements, photos, and cell phone records involving Murray and the Sacramento woman who first encountered each other during a routine traffic stop in late November 2020 in Ukiah. The woman was a passenger in the car and provided her identification and where she was staying. Later she discovered the officer took the key card to her room at the Super 8 Motel on Orchard Street. At around 6 a.m. the next morning, he returned and forced his way into her room. She had barricaded the door with a chest because she feared he might show up. When he did, Murray exposed himself and demanded she sexually stimulate him, according to the original charges.
Murray’s case has become embroiled in controversy since DA Eyster’s decision to drop three felony charges and misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine charge against the Ukiah cop and agree to a plea deal. Murray is being represented by a high-powered team of defense lawyers from Sonoma County, led by Chris Andrian and Stephen Gallenson.
The deal the Santa Rosa lawyers reached with Eyster calls for no further jail time, and probation in return for no contest pleas to a felony charge of intimidating a witness and a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge relating to a second woman who accused the cop of sexual assault.
The felony conviction by plea might prevent Murray from being a cop again, but the deal apparently allows him to avoid having to register as a sex offender.
In the Sacramento woman’s case, attorney Lagos described the available evidence as ‘decisive.’
Known only as ‘S.Y.’ in court documents, Lagos said she has a corroborating witness to her story: an aunt whom she called following her encounter with Murray after the traffic stop in Ukiah. The family member advised the woman to barricade the door to her Orchard Street motel.
“My client feared this man,” said Lagos. “He was a police sergeant, a man in a position of authority.”
A second woman, after reading of the motel encounter following Murray’s firing, called investigators and told them that the officer had twice forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2014. She was a friend of a former wife of Murray’s.
A third woman, a former Ukiah police officer who is now a Mendocino County sheriff’s deputy, contends in a pending civil lawsuit that Murray sexually accosted her in an out-of-town motel room while both were attending a training session in 2012. The officer said she locked herself in the bathroom of her room after Murray fondled her breasts, stripped, and confronted her with his erect penis. Her lawsuit contends her superiors at the police department later ignored her formal complaints to them.
At one point, she said Murray whispered in her ear in front of other officers: “Nothing happened. No one will believe you.”
Later, when the woman officer went to work in the department’s detective unit, she said she learned of Murray’s past history, including internal affairs probes, his pulling a gun at a party, other sexual escapades, and reported drug use. When investigators confronted Murray at the police station when first looking into the Sacramento woman’s complaint, they found two packs of meth in his police locker.
That officer alleges that while she worked with Murray at the police department, she was “repeatedly subjected to harassment, discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliatory adverse actions in response to reporting the unlawful conduct.”
Her civil lawsuit is still pending.
In the Sacramento woman’s case, attorney Lagos said she eventually received a $250,000 settlement from the city of Ukiah.
“We didn’t have to formally file a lawsuit. The city’s attorney understood the gravity of the situation,” said Lagos.
Lagos said at the time he found the city police command staff and its legal representatives “very responsive” to what was presented to them about Murray. District Attorney investigators were very thorough in the case follow-up, he said.
“Look, it appeared this case was done,” said Lagos. Murray was summarily dismissed from the department. “He didn’t appeal,” noted Lagos.
“He was summarily dismissed, and he didn’t appeal,” said Lagos.
Lagos acknowledged his client has been the subject of whispers about her past sexual conduct.
“But her sexual practices are not the issue here. What is at play is a police sergeant breaking into a room and forcing the occupant to sexually gratify him. That’s the crime,” said Lagos.
Lagos, a veteran law graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, specializes in police misconduct. He has for three decades or more assisted victims of police brutality and civil rights violations in winning settlements in state and federal courts in the Bay Area and the Central Valley.
“My client was prepared to testify. She is aghast to learn that she is being blamed for the lack of prosecution of Murray,” said Lagos.
Murray’s rescheduled sentencing is now set for 3 p.m. Tuesday in front of Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman.
The Murray saga continues… when will someone reel in DA Dave and remove him from these conflict of interest cases. He has no right to have been hearing ANY cases that deal with ANY law enforcement matters. It’s obvious there is a complete lack of judgement in the DA’s office. Favoritism at its finest. Special treatment to protect their own. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this all out. The citizens of Mendocino County deserve better. The victims of this sexual Predator and Ex-cop deserve the ability to heal. When will The People wake up and come together for each other. There are more than just the MURRAY case involved in this country’s Prosecutors dysfunction and disregard of what their office is suppose to stand for! You are not invincible DA Dave! Your cookie is starting to crumble.
Time to look at Eysters bank records to see what he is hiding. He took under the table money for years for his “pay to play'” program
I am truly disappointed in our leaders in this county and city. Disgusted.
And everyone needs to focus on the issue, the crime and the need for accountability and justice. Not the victim. Stop putting more hurt on the victim(s).
This case needs to go to trial, and maybe in another county with officials who are not tainted.
Eyster and UPD should be personally liable for all the money paid out to Murray’s victims. Since 2013. Sexually assaults a fellow officer and threatens her to keep her quiet. Keeps his job. Beats a guy to the tune of a $1million City payout. Keeps his job. I’d bet someone with the ability to dig would find sketchy behavior on Murray’s part when he was in Iraq.
I have a feeling Eyster and UPD staff (Wadeleich) that let this and other assault and domestic violence happen, essentially encouraging it and retaliating against the victims will soon be backpedaling like the Buffalo Bills are for knowingly hiring a rapist
Gosh, it looks like Mendocino County and Ukiah are way behind the times regarding sexual assault charges. It used to be that a woman’s word was not enough to convict, and that a woman’s past was considered a point against her, as she was probably “asking for it”. Harsh words, those, and hopefully (maybe too hopefully) have been stricken from the legal profession. But not here! By golly we’re sticking to our guns and our outdated, cruel beliefs. DA tells lies fed to him by the “defense team”? Who is paying for Murray’s dream team? I surely hope it is not our own city coffers.
Same old same old in Mendocino County.