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Police chief: Former deputy chief didn't violate policy in sex assault investigation

Posted at 3:09 PM, Nov 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-05 21:41:18-05

DENVER — A nearly two-year investigation into two of Denver’s top law enforcement officials accused of botching a sexual assault investigation and then working to hide a harshly critical letter from a former district attorney has concluded with the decision that former Deputy Police Chief Matt Murray did not violate department policy.

Chief Paul Pazen made the announcement Monday following a review by the Conduct Review Office of the Denver Sheriff Department.

“After reviewing Lieutenant Murray’s case and considering the totality of the circumstances, including evidence presented at his pre-disciplinary meeting, I have concluded that a department policy violation was not sustained,” Pazen said.

Murray has since been demoted to the rank of lieutenant, a move that cut his pay by more than $60,000 a year, and removed from the department’s senior leadership team.

The controversy began in January 2017 when Contact7 Investigates published a letter written by former District Attorney Mitch Morrissey to then-Chief Robert White that sharply criticized Murray’s handling of a sexual assault case in which two people were arrested but never charged. 

Morrissey’s letter claimed DPD, under Murray’s guidance, ignored long-standing protocol and rushed to arrest Angiella Arnot without reviewing evidence the DA believed proved her innocence. The police union submitted a public records request to DPD requesting a copy of Morrissey’s letter, but DPD twice failed to produce it.

Murray told Denver7 last year he and the department did nothing wrong. Current Denver District Attorney Beth McCann reviewed the case for potential criminal charges for violations of the state’s open records act. She determined White and Murray handled the records request carelessly, but no crimes were committed.

On Monday, Pazen said Murray “admitted to knowing about the letter from Mr. Morrissey and he could have done more to ensure it was disclosed in a timely manner” but added there’s insufficient evidence Murray intentionally withheld documents from the public.

“What is clear is the need to set expectations related to appropriate responses to open records requests, and we will work closely with the Executive Director of Safety’s Office to meet that need,” Pazen said.

Executive Director Troy Riggs said he has begun an evaluation of the case’s timeline to find areas for improvement.

Murray issued the following statement in response to Monday's report:

We live in a time where unwarranted character assassination to achieve a political purpose seems generally accepted.  As I have maintained since the beginning, I did not do any of the things I was accused of and there were a great number of inaccurate and irresponsible things said and then reported in the media about me.  I am confident in the integrity and quality of the Denver Department of Safety's investigation and disciplinary process and always believed that a thorough and fair investigation would illuminate the truth.  Though extremely lengthy and exhaustive- this investigation definitively cleared me of any wrongdoing.

I look forward to putting this ordeal behind me and continuing my public service in whatever capacity is deemed most valuable to the community.

Since the investigation, White has retired and Mayor Hancock replaced the city’s manager of safety.