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Murray gets probation

A mural of a blindfolded woman with a sword in one hand and a set of scales in the other.
A mural of Lady Justice in the Ukiah courthouse.

Kevin Murray will not go to prison unless he violates the terms of his two-year probation.

After a last-minute postponement and a misprinted time on a hearing document, former Ukiah police sergeant Kevin Murray was finally sentenced yesterday afternoon in a packed courtroom. Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman imposed two years of formal probation, with a two-year suspended sentence. That means that if he slips up once, he’ll be sent to state prison. Moorman told Murray that includes missing one appointment with his probation officer or having one beer.

“One step on this side of the line, and you are going to the joint,” she promised.

Murray was originally charged with multiple sex crimes, burglaries, and possession of narcotics, but pled no contest to one felony count of intimidating a witness and one misdemeanor count of falsely imprisoning another woman. Each crime involved a separate victim who originally accused him of sexual assault. Moorman told the public that “it was very clear to the court” that the District Attorney’s office was proceeding on the good faith belief that if the case went to trial, the prosecution could not prove Murray’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Deputy District Attorney Heidi Larson said she had “no comments” when she was approached outside the courtroom, so it is not clear why the DA did not summon a third woman, whose claim of an assault in a hotel room is now proceeding in civil court, as a witness. It is widely known that the third victim, a former Ukiah Police officer, is pursuing her case against Murray in civil court because the District Attorney declined to prosecute. In a memorandum submitted one day before the sentencing, Larson wrote that the statute of limitations had expired in that case, but that “this possible third victim…may still have her day in court.”

Larson’s memorandum referred extensively to a probation report prepared by the Sonoma County Adult Probation Department, which recommended a stiffer penalty than the one agreed to by Murray’s defense attorneys and the District Attorney in July. The written memorandum supporting Sonoma County’s recommendations did not mention a significant omission. But yesterday in court, Larson declared that “It is a bit dismaying to the People that Sonoma County did not get Jane Doe’s report.” Jane Doe is the woman who accused Murray of sexually assaulting her in her home, and the report included the information that he was armed at the time of the alleged assault. That charge was later reduced to misdemeanor false imprisonment.

Moorman invited Jane Doe to speak to the court, but due to difficulties with the remote connection, only several loud shrieks of sustained electronic feedback were audible. It is unclear if Jane Doe knew she was being offered an opportunity to speak. Multiple people who were tuning in to the proceedings via zoom complained later that they were unable to see or hear what was taking place.

In her memo, Larson wrote that her office now disagrees with the indicated sentence of probation with no additional jail time that Moorman telegraphed she would impose at a hearing in July. Larson wrote that the prosecution did not join in that sentence at the time, and urged the court to impose “additional punishment,” including further incarceration. Murray has served 104 days in county jail, and is out of custody at this time. But Moorman said the lawyers on both sides, whom she estimated have 65-70 years of legal experience between them, worked out the plea deal between themselves and brought it to the court. She said it was “readily apparent that Murray would be receiving probation. The prosecution was not surprised by probation.”

He was originally charged with breaking into a motel room twice in one night, each time sexually assaulting a woman known as SY. Though that charge was replaced with the felony of intimidating a witness, which means he will not have to register as a sex offender, Larson asserted that “the court is required to consider the crimes originally charged and factor in those facts in crafting an appropriate criminal sanction.” The City of Ukiah settled with SY for a quarter of a million dollars, which former Police Chief Noble Waidelich insisted was not an admission of guilt. Waidelich has since been fired for reasons that have still not been shared with the public, and he is being sued for domestic violence in civil court.

Moorman told the public that, given the much-reduced charges, she could only legally sentence Murray to 16 months or two years. She said she does not believe the charges merit 16 months, and that if she sentenced him to a three-year suspended sentence, it would be overturned on appeal. However, she dismissed an alternative recommendation, that Murray go to county jail for 364 days, as “unsound,” because that would knock out the possibility of supervised probation. “We won’t have anything left to sanction him with if he goes to county,” she said. “Do we want the sanction to be nominal, de minimis? No, we do not.” She insisted that the sentence “should not be interpreted as a slap on the wrist, or disparate leniency not accorded to other defendants;” and that the victims as well as Murray himself “deserve finality.”

Moorman ordered Murray to report to Mendocino County Probation, which will then refer his case to the probation department in the county where he resides. She ordered him to continue receiving counseling from Veterans Affairs for PTSD he claims to suffer as a result of his military service and his time as a police officer. He has also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and is under psychiatric treatment for the condition. She also ordered him to participate in a certified treatment program for sex offenders for at least one year. It remains undetermined exactly which program he will participate in, since her preferred program is three years long, and Murray will only be on probation for two years.

Murray is also forbidden to own weapons, including pepper spray or bow and arrow, or have alcohol, any drugs including marijuana, or any drug paraphernalia on his person or any property he controls. He will not be allowed to go to businesses whose primary business is selling alcohol. He must submit a DNA sample to the court, and he will be subject to search and seizure and drug testing at any time of day or night by any sworn police officer.

Moorman told Murray she believes he is genuinely remorseful, as he expressed in a letter he wrote to her earlier this month; but that genuine remorse and the harm caused by his conduct are not mutually exclusive.

“The damage you have done to the Ukiah Police Department cannot be underestimated,” she told him near the end of the proceeding. “It will take generations for trust in law enforcement to be fully restored because of your conduct.”

Local News
Sarah Reith is the lead reporter for KZYX News. She joined the KZYX News team in 2017, and covers local politics, water, law enforcement and the arts in Mendocino County.