ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The District Attorney’s Office in Santa Fe confirmed on Wednesday it won’t press charges against Albert S. “Pat” Murdoch, the former presiding criminal judge in the 2nd Judicial District, on allegations that he raped a prostitute in July 2011.
No one was available in the Santa Fe DA’s Office on Wednesday to explain how prosecutors arrived at that decision. However, Murdoch’s attorney, Ahmad Assed, said in a statement that he isn’t surprised by the decision.
“While we are pleased that District Attorney (Angela “Spence”) Pacheco, after a review of factual allegations, has decided not to pursue a case against Judge Murdoch, we are not at all surprised. Judge Murdoch has maintained his innocence throughout this ordeal, and the decision not to prosecute is a small measure of vindication,” attorneys Assed and Richard Moran said in the statement. “It is unfortunate that a fine public servant, who served our community for so very long, had to be dragged through the mud based solely on groundless accusations.”
APD, which arrested Murdoch at his courthouse office July 19, 2011, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The District Attorney’s Office in Bernalillo County asked the Santa Fe district attorney to handle the case because of a potential conflict of interest. Murdoch, then 59, was the presiding criminal judge in Bernalillo County at the time of his arrest.
Murdoch was charged with forcing a prostitute – whom he had allegedly paid on other occasions – to have oral sex, and with intimidating a witness.
The witness intimidation charge stemmed from a conversation police said the woman had with Murdoch in which she posed a hypothetical situation involving a woman making allegations against him. She “said that Mr. Murdoch replied he would use the police and his connections to take care of the situation,” the criminal complaint states.
Murdoch’s attorneys, days after his arrest, filed a motion to have the case dismissed for lack of probable cause, in part because they said the second charge against Murdoch, intimidation of a witness, cannot be shown through the hypothetical situations the alleged victim posed to the judge.
The 23-year-old woman, who police said is an admitted prostitute, said Murdoch had paid her for sex on eight occasions, according to the complaint. The woman told police she’d been solicited by Murdoch on Backpage.com, a website used to advertise prostitution services.
Shortly after his arrest, Murdoch retired from the bench after 26 years.
Albuquerque police said at the time they suspected the woman was trying to extort Murdoch after surreptitiously videotaping him.
Police acknowledged the alleged extortion and failure to report an assault could hurt the case against Murdoch, but they maintained that they had a strong case against the judge and that the alleged victim was “credible.”
The extortion charges never materialized, an APD spokeswoman said in July 2011.
Murdoch graduated from University of New Mexico Law School in 1978. He started his legal career as a public defender the next year. Less than a decade later, he was appointed to state District Court. At the time, he was the youngest person ever appointed to the District Court bench.