When he agreed to be the Republican nominee for Queens district attorney and take on Borough President Melinda Katz in the general election, Joe Murray, the former cop turned defense attorney vowed he was a “regular Joe” and not a politician.
A politician would not have stood up as a character witness for disgraced Kew Gardens criminal defense attorney John Scarpa Jr. during his sentencing hearing Monday in Brooklyn federal court as Murray did so close to Election Day, he claims.
“John Scarpa is a friend of mine. We had offices right next to each other on Queens Boulevard,” Murray said. “It was a no brainer for me. I had no hesitation whatsoever.”
United States District Judge Carol Bagley Amon sentenced Scarpa to 30 months’ imprisonment and fined him $10,000 for bribing a witness to commit perjury in a double homicide trial in Suffolk County Supreme Court, prosecutors announced Monday. Scarpa was convicted following a four-day trial in May 2019.
“Look, this guy was a prosecutor for 30 years,” Murray said. “He’s not a perfect person but who is? I remember when I was arrested and charged as a cop. It was a very lonely feeling as people ran for cover.”
Murray spent much of his 15-year career in the NYPD with the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights as the Queens North Task Force in Flushing but the heavyweight champion on the NYPD boxing team got into trouble in 1993. Murray was arrested while on duty and in uniform and charged with felony assault after breaking the jaw of another on-duty NYPD officer at Manhattan’s 10th Precinct.
Although a grand jury refused to indict Murray, the NYPD still sought to terminate him leading to a long legal odyssey and his eventual legal career.
“I met John Scarpa when I was living in Bayside in 2006 when I was applying for a job in the Queens District Attorney’s Office,” Murray said. “He was a longtime ADA himself and he did everything he could to help me. I didn’t get the offer in the end because I had my NYPD pension and there’s a law against double dipping. But John and I remained friends and I never abandon a friend.”
Murray was not alone in standing up for Scarpa. Judge Amon received dozens of character witness letters from NYPD veterans, educators, attorneys and former assistant district attorneys.
“I had no hesitation whatsoever and I wasn’t alone,” Murray said. “There were four nuns, a priest and a bishop sitting between me and the Scarpa family. Being there in court I was happy to be there for him. And he’s going to appeal the conviction, and I think he will prevail.”
Murray is a registered Democrat, but he was offered a spot on the GOP party line when their previous nominee, attorney Daniel Kogan, accepted a nomination for state Supreme Court.