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Plea hearing scheduled Thursday on bribery allegations linked to former NM Gov. Richardson

A change of plea hearing is scheduled Thursday afternoon in Las Cruces for a retired judge accused of funneling bribes to former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for judicial appointments.

Attorneys in the case have declined comment on whether a deal has been reached to reduce the four felony counts pending against former state District Judge Michael Murphy. But court documents show prosecutors and the defense have agreed to have a new charge filed against Murphy — this one a misdemeanor count of misconduct by a public official.

An agreement to knock the felonies down to a misdemeanor would mark the collapse of a high-profile case that shocked the judiciary two years ago when prosecutors implied the bribes were part of a long-running practice.

Richardson, Lopez and Murphy have vehemently denied the charges.