A 17-year veteran of the Forest Park Police Department could spend up to a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating a suspect’s civil rights. The plea was filed during an afternoon hearing held April 18 at the U.S. District Court in Chicago.
The agreement reached between Sgt. Mike Murphy and federal prosecutors was announced just as Murphy’s criminal trial on felony charges was set to begin on April 21.
“The defendant, Michael Murphy, a Forest Park police officer since 1990, also agreed to resign from the police department and never work again as a law enforcement officer in any jurisdiction,” prosecutors said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
Murphy, 43, was indicted in October on two felony counts. Prosecutors alleged that he needlessly used pepper spray and a police baton to subdue Sidney Hooks on Aug. 6, 2003. Hooks was charged with resisting arrest and aggravated assault of a police officer, but those charges were later dropped by county prosecutors.
In 2004, the village paid Hooks $50,000 to settle a civil case filed against Murphy.
According to court and police records, Murphy was providing assistance to two other officers at the time of Hooks’ arrest. Police were called to aMadison Street liquor store for reports of panhandling. The officers who initially responded to the call were not going to take Hooks into custody, according to court records, but Murphy continued to pursue the suspect even as Hooks was given permission by the other officers to leave the scene.
Defense attorney Rick Halprin did not elaborate on the reasons for entering a guilty plea, other than to say that his client was facing felony charges. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 9, said Halprin, and Murphy will remain free on bond till that date.
Deputy Police Chief Tom Aftanas, who was scheduled to testify in the case, offered praise for the good work that Murphy did during his career in the village. But the federal conviction of a police officer is “concerning,” he said.
“Over his career he’s done some very good things for the police department,” Aftanas said. “At the same time, with this plea deal … it’s disappointing. If he pled guilty, that’s concerning.”
According to the terms of the agreement, Murphy must resign his position within seven days. Whether Murphy serves time behind bars will be determined by a judge at the sentencing hearing in July.
See the April 23 edition of the Forest Park Review for complete coverage of this story.