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.