Can you say busted? The news articles are entitled “New Mexico Judge Charged with Raping Prostitute.” However, it seems the case isn’t so cut and dried.
In Bernalillo County, Judge Pat Murdoch is apparently well-known and highly respected for serving the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in New Mexico for 26 years. Allegedly, he met and paid an unidentified woman for sex on at least eight occasions. The woman alleges that on at least two of those incidences, Murdoch “forced himself on her” and also “forcibly performed oral sex on her, despite her objections to oral sex.” After this occurred once, the woman returned for another meeting and secretly taped the next assault, which she then presented to undercover police.
Awesome, right? Actually, it’s not so simple. I foresee a litany of potential problems with this case. First, I’m going to make the assumption that the defense attorneys for Murdoch (and the local and national media) will focus on the fact that the plaintiff is a sex worker. Second, as I struggle to think like a lawyer, I expect the defense will call in to question why a rape victim would continue to conduct business with her attacker. For example, if Plaintiff was raped on the first meeting, why did she go back six more times without a recording device?
Third, unfortunately, the plaintiff did not submit the alleged tape to authorities freely; she sold it for $400. This raises the question of profit. I admit that it did raise my eyebrow when I learned that she hadn’t simply submitted the evidence, but rather had an asking price. Search warrants of Murdoch’s home (where the alleged encounters occurred) have resulted in the seizure of the defendant’s personal checkbook, which indicate payments made to the alleged victim. She claims that each encounter cost Murdoch $200.
If convicted of the felony charges of “criminal sexual penetration” and “intimidation of a witness,” Murdoch faces up to 5 years in prison. However, the Albuquerque District Attorney has for some reason decided not to charge him with “patronizing a prostitute,” which if the other two charges prove to be true, he most certainly did. In the New Mexico penal code, Section 30-9-3-B defines patronizing prostitutes as “knowingly hiring or offering to hire a prostitute, or one believed by the offerer to be a prostitute, to engage in a sexual act with the actor or another.” This is a misdemeanor. Murdoch and his lawyers claim that he is innocent of the charges. Interestingly, he hasn’t denied utilizing the woman’s services. It seems likely that the District Attorney would pursue the charges that are heaviest and most likely to result in convictions, so it’s curious to me why a slam-dunk such as this would not be utilized.
This case broke in mid-July, and I began writing about it then. However, on August 11th, New Mexico news outlets started releasing a story entitled “Charges To Be Temporarily Dismissed Against Judge Murdoch.” District Attorney Angela Pacheco explained that in a case such as this, there is a 60 day window for the D.A’s office to accept a case from the time of initial charge. Albuquerque police contend that the investigation is “too complicated and it will be difficult to meet the deadline.” Too complicated? I smell a conspiracy.
This whole story is so Law & Order: SVU.
Seriously. At first, I was like, “Go, chick!” And now I’m pretty sure she doesn’t stand a chance against ‘the system’. ugh.
Oh yeah, I also had to wonder if not charging Murdoch for hiring a prostitute is actually because they’re looking out for her. She could be prosecuted for prostitution separately from this case.
That’s true. I didn’t even consider that. Hmm…we will never know, most likely.
i like that he paid her with checks. probably my favorite part.
So smart. I wonder what the memo said.
Too complicated…ugh. The system is definitely broken.
Not to be overly sensitive, but I bristled when I read the part where you introduced the judge as “well-known and highly respected” and having served on the court for 26 yrs (which was the beginning of the explanation of what makes things more complicated)…
Who knows/likes/respects him? Probably not his victim (if the charges are true). And what does it matter if he’s had his job for so long–does that make it less likely for him to be a rapist?
Even if it’s unintentional, this kind of rhetoric seems to spin him in a positive light from the outset, and I find it upsetting because it’s exactly what was said of my attacker at school when I brought sexual harassment charges against him. Charges like that are very difficult to prove, and his first line of defense was getting his colleagues/supervisor to tell the committee what an friendly, respected, and trustworthy person he was, and how he was involved in a loving relationship, etc. Their personal opinion of his character had absolutely nothing to do with the actual incident (and not to mention, didn’t undo what he did to me). I also can’t fail to notice that in cases like this, the upstanding character of the victims are never mentioned. I just hope that whether or not this judge is guilty, things are decided based on evidence and relevant information, not just general opinion.
Actually, Elle wrote that the man is “apparently” well-known and highly respected. She’s summarizing the situation for those who don’t live in the area so readers will understand what the claimant is up against, not making her own value judgements about him or his reputation. It’s relevant because, as you explain very well, it unfairly influences the opinions of those who control the case’s outcome.
Thank you Charlotte. Apparently, apparently…..because that is the phrase used in three articles I reviewed as sources.