Metro

Top US marshal allegedly lied under oath about sex in government office

An investigation into a former top official with the US Marshals office in Boston found a range of misconduct, including lying under oath about sexual activity in government offices, then lying about his actions and urging some of the women to withhold details from investigators. Federal investigators characterized his false statements as criminal violations, although prosecutors declined to file charges.

Jon Murray was the chief deputy marshal in Massachusetts — second-in-command of the office — from 2011 until fall 2015, and has been with the agency for more than 20 years. He was transferred to Rhode Island during the investigation.

The findings add to a lengthy list of misconduct in the US Marshals. In 2015, the agency’s director resigned amid allegations of quid pro quo hiring practices.

Advertisement

The Boston office also has a checkered history. In 2009, the Justice Department inspector general found the acting head of the office violated ethical standards by assigning deputies to escort an agency lawyer — who worked as a sports statistician on the side — to World Series games, along with several sports broadcasters. Her predecessor was removed for spotty attendance and misusing his vehicle, according to the inspector general.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The US Marshals Service is responsible for tracking down fugitives, protecting witnesses, and maintaining security at federal courthouses. It is overseen by the Justice Department, alongside the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

A brief summary of the latest investigation did not name Murray, nor did a longer investigative report obtained from the inspector general via the Freedom of Information Act. A spokesman for the US Marshals declined to confirm that Murray was the subject, and Murray did not respond to requests for comment. However, multiple people with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to The Boston Globe that Murray was the subject.

Additional documents provided by congressional investigators show Murray was under investigation for “allegations of misconduct with women” as early as July 2015, according to a memo written by Murray’s superior. The inspector general’s report, from which all names are redacted, states the individual was accused of “inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature” involving multiple women, and was interviewed in June 2015 and on two other occasions.

The documents trace a two-year investigation during which Murray lied under oath, his supervisor sought to transfer him out of state, and prosecutors launched a criminal review.

Advertisement

In two sworn interviews with investigators, the subject of the investigation denied the allegations. But he came clean after a woman with whom he had been involved gave information to investigators.

“I handled this horribly from the get go,” he told investigators at his third interview, according to the heavily redacted report, adding that he was “uncomfortable” with going forward, “potentially in a criminal proceeding, where I would have to go before a court and defend a lie.” The documents suggest his fear of prosecution was well-founded. Finding that the false statements constituted “lack of candor,” the office of the inspector general’s report noted “it is a crime to lie to the OIG while under oath.”

In the redacted report, the subject admitted to having sex with “approximately nine women” inside US Marshals courthouse offices. He also urged some women not to cooperate with investigators. The inspector general deemed this an attempt to influence witnesses, another criminal violation.

In light of the investigation, John Gibbons, the US Marshal for Massachusetts, asked that Murray be transferred, according to a memo provided by congressional investigators.

In September 2015, Gibbons wrote to the acting director of the US Marshals, David Harlow. Gibbons described how then-US Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz pulled him aside at a conference to discuss complaints from deputy marshals fearing retaliation over the inspector general’s inquiry. Ortiz, now in private practice, declined to discuss the matter.

Advertisement

It was not the first time Gibbons heard complaints. In July 2015, while Murray was on vacation, Gibbons met with office supervisors.

‘Several supervisors advised that they feared for their personal safety . . . others reprisal, retaliation . . .’

John Gibbons, US Marshal, in note to top official after meeting about Jon Murray  

“Several supervisors advised that they feared for their personal safety, one indicating fear for their family and others reprisal, retaliation, and retribution,” Gibbons wrote.

Ortiz told Gibbons she would bring concerns to Justice Department leadership. A prosecutor from Ortiz’s staff told Gibbons he was looking into criminal charges, including for obstruction of justice and “media leaks affecting cases and sensitive information involving high profile witnesses,” Gibbons’s memo says.

The prosecutor said “it was very difficult” to deal with the US Marshals “on highly sensitive matters while chief Murray is currently the number two person in leadership” for fear information might be leaked, according to the memo.

Ortiz’s office recused itself, and the matter was transferred to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section in Washington, D.C., which declined to press charges.

It wasn’t just prosecutors upset about alleged disclosures. The defense team for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sent Gibbons a letter in 2014, according to information provided by congressional investigators, requesting an investigation into details allegedly leaked regarding Tsarnaev making an obscene gesture at a security camera.

Investigators determined that the subject of their investigation “disclosed nonpublic information to a news reporter regarding a fugitive matter.”

Upon learning of the possible criminal review, the US Marshals transferred Murray to Rhode Island in September 2015.

The chief judge of the Massachusetts federal court, Judge Patti B. Saris, called the chief judge in Rhode Island to warn Murray might become “unhinged” when the investigation report was released, according to e-mails provided by congressional investigators. The Rhode Island judge asked that Murray be kept out of the courthouse.

A spokesman said he was unable to answer whether Murray still has top secret security clearance.

Shawn Musgrave can be reached at shawnmusgrave@gmail.com.