- Associated Press - Thursday, November 17, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A California State Bar panel is recommending a one-year suspension from practicing law for a Kern County prosecutor it determined intentionally altered a transcript to make it sound like a defendant confessed to having sex with a 10-year-old girl, state bar officials said Thursday.

The state bar panel in its Nov. 10 recommendation cited determinations by two courts that 41-year-old Robert Alan Murray was trying to influence plea negotiations with the defendant’s lawyer, and it rejected Murray’s claim that he was playing a prank.

“Murray’s behavior is wholly inappropriate and unbecoming of an experienced prosecutor, who is expected to adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct and to act as a gatekeeper to the fair administration of justice,” State Bar Court Judge Richard A. Honn wrote for the three-judge panel.

A call to Murray’s attorney and a message left for him through the Kern County District Attorney’s Office were not immediately returned.

The panel overruled a state bar court judge’s recommendation of a 30-day suspension, saying a lengthier suspension was needed to emphasize that Murray’s conduct was “serious and cannot be countenanced.”

A final decision on any punishment for Murray will be made by the California Supreme Court.

The judge who recommended the 30-day suspension said Murray’s actions were a “joke-gone-bad.” Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green agreed, saying in a phone interview Thursday she didn’t think Murray had acted intentionally and should lose his license for a year.

“I think he made a grave mistake in judgment and unfortunately there were very severe consequences to the attorney-client relationship,” she said. “I acknowledge that, but I also feel that he didn’t intend to gain an advantage in the case.”

Green said Murray has continued to work for the district attorney’s office as a liaison with the crime lab and juvenile prosecutor.

Murray’s actions led a judge to dismiss the charges against the defendant, Efrain Velasco-Palacios, who was accused in 2013 of five counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with his girlfriend’s daughter.

Murray added two lines to a transcript of Palacios’ conversation with police and sent it to Palacios’ public defender, Ernest Hinman, after Palacios rejected a plea offer from Murray that would have required him to serve eight years in prison, according to the state bar panel’s findings.

One of the lines quoted Palacios as saying, “I’m just glad she’s not pregnant like her mother,” and appeared to be a confession that Palacios had had sex with the girl, the state bar panel said.

Murray later disclosed that he had fabricated the last two lines, but not before Hinman said he questioned his client about them and warned him that an admission of sex could be used to file more serious charges against him.

Murray said the additions were a joke that came at a time when he was carrying a heavy caseload that was taking a toll on him.

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