State Investigates Prison Sex Allegations

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Four employees at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge are on paid suspension while the state Department of Corrections investigates an inmate’s allegations that prison staff subjected him to sexual misconduct, a spokesman for the department said Saturday.

A fifth worker who also was suspended with pay has ceased employment with the department and is off the payroll, spokesman Bob Anez said.

Inmate Michael A. Murphy, a former Kalispell resident serving a 25-year sentence, recently sent some Montana newspapers a letter reporting several of the suspensions and stating that a female mental-health worker had sex with him more than 30 times, beginning in September 2007. Murphy said two female corrections officers also engaged him in sexual activity.

Under state and federal laws, an inmate is unable to consent to sex.

Anez said the investigation involves the three people accused in the letter and two about whom Murphy did not write when communicating with the newspapers.

The suspensions were imposed about seven weeks ago, Anez said. If the investigation finds personnel violations of prison policy, consequences could range from written reprimands to termination.

Anez said the administrative investigation, which may be complete by Nov. 21, began immediately after Powell County Attorney Lewis Smith concluded in late October that there was insufficient evidence to support criminal charges.

“The department takes these types of allegations very seriously,” Anez said. “It has zero tolerance when it comes to inappropriate behavior of department employees.”

Standard procedure was followed in placing the employees on paid leave, he said.

Murphy, 35, has a record that includes convictions for forgery, felony theft and criminal endangerment.

His most recent arrest came after he led law-enforcement officers on two high-speed car chases in 2006, after probation authorities went to his Kalispell house to conduct a search and he fled in a sport utility vehicle. Officers pursued Murphy through Kalispell and west of there, but dropped the pursuit because of high speed and heavy traffic.

When a Montana Highway Patrol trooper spotted Murphy, he was chased again. In that pursuit, an officer rolled his patrol car and received minor injuries. Murphy fled on foot near Lone Pine State Park and was apprehended the following night in a Kalispell city park.

A state judge sentenced Murphy to 20 years on a charge for which he originally received a suspended sentence, and imposed an additional five years for felony endangerment.