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Prosecutor charged with misconduct

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POSTED August 13, 2014 7:43 p.m.

BAKERSFIELD  (AP) — State Bar officials have filed disciplinary charges against a Central California prosecutor accused of changing a transcript to make it sound like a suspected child molester had acknowledged he was guilty.

State Bar officials say Kern County Deputy District Attorney Robert Murray made up two lines in the transcript and emailed it to the suspect’s defense attorney. The suspect was charged with committing lewd acts on a child. The prosecutor’s alleged misconduct led a judge to dismiss all five counts against the suspect, which state prosecutors have appealed.

According to The Bakersfield Californian, Murray has said he did not intend to tamper with the case. Contacted Wednesday at his office, Murray deferred comment to his attorney, Jonathan Arons, who said his client acted foolishly, but meant the changes as a joke.

“It was an attempt at levity that went south,” Arons said.

The revised transcript was never going to be seen by the judge in open court, Arons said, adding that seen in context the two lines Murray added were clearly out of character with the rest of what the prosecutor sent.

The disciplinary charges were filed in June. Murray could lose his law license, but Arons said there is ample proof the changes were done in jest. “If I could get cooler heads to prevail, they’ll realize this was a one-time foolish act,” he said.

Chief Deputy Public Defender Peter Kang has told the Californian that he believed Murray’s actions left the judge with little choice but to dismiss the charges. Kang described Murray’s actions as “bizarre, shocking and disturbing.”

Kang said he didn’t think the transcript change was funny. He said Murray waited nine days to inform the Public Defender’s office of what he had done, and only came forward when the opposing attorney pointed out the change.

 “If it was a joke, then I don’t understand the punch line,” Kang said.

Arons said his client had been placed on temporary paid administrative leave. Kern County Assistant District Attorney Scott Spielman said Murray is on the job today, but he declined to discuss disciplinary action taken against Murray.

The state attorney general’s office investigated and found Murray had done nothing criminal, Arons said. Murray’s state Bar case is set for trial in mid-October, but his attorney said he hopes for an early resolution later this month.

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