BOSTON – A judge defended himself Monday against ethics charges for sending letters to the Boston Herald after a jury found the newspaper had libeled the judge, in part by quoting him as having said a 14-year-old rape victim should "get over it."
Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy, who denied making the remark, said he wrote the letters after he won a $2 million judgment because he wanted to end the case without years of appeals by the Herald.
But a lawyer for the Commission on Judicial Misconduct said Murphy violated the code of conduct for judges when he wrote the letters, including one on Superior Court letterhead.
"Judge Murphy committed misconduct the moment he licked the stamps on those envelopes and put them in the mail," said Howard Neff, a lawyer for the commission.
On Monday, Murphy said he felt "demonized" by the Herald's coverage, which portrayed him as lenient toward defendants and quoted him saying of a 14-year-old rape victim, "Tell her to get over it."
"I didn't say 'tell her to get over it.' I said, 'How can we help her get over it?"' he said.
Murphy became choked up and had to pause several times when describing how the libel case took a severe physical and emotional toll on him and his family.
After Herald columnist Howie Carr criticized him, a posting in a Herald chat room suggested "maybe my daughters ought to be raped," Murphy recalled. The judge said after that, his 14-year-old daughter began wetting the bed and both of his daughters required therapy.
He said he wrote the letters to Herald Publisher Patrick Purcell because he wanted to spare his family a lengthy legal battle.
"It was killing me and my family," he said. "I did whatever the hell I had to do to stop it — because my family was dying."
In his first handwritten note, Murphy asked for a private meeting with Purcell.
"You will bring to that meeting a cashiers check, payable to me, in the sum of $3,260,000," says the letter, dated two days after the jury awarded the judge $2 million. "No check, no meeting."
A separate single-page post script dated a day earlier warns Purcell that telling anyone about the letter would be, "a big mistake." The word "big" was written in all capital letters.
Murphy could face a fine, reprimand or censure.