'Quest For Justice'

FORT LAUDERDALE — A veteran sergeant assigned to the Broward Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs division, who has headed countless investigations of other department employees, is now herself the target of a criminal investigation.

Sgt. Mary Guess is under investigation for allegedly falsifying an Internal Affairs investigation report involving James “Jim” Murray, a former lieutenant who headed BSO’s Strategic Investigations Division (SID), which handles money-laundering and other top secret operations.

Guess did not respond to questions emailed to her by the South Florida Times and hung up without commenting when reached on her cell phone. Her attorney Eric Schwartzreich said it was he who instructed his client not to discuss the case while the investigation is pending.

“She has done nothing wrong,” Schwartzreich said. “I’m confident this will all be resolved.”

She has worked for BSO for nearly 30 years, the last 14 in Internal Affairs.

Broward State Attorney’s Office spokesman Ron Ishoy confirmed in an email that the office “opened the investigation recently.” He said BSO “is cooperating” with investigators but he provided no further details.

The focus of the investigation is a report by Guess which stated that Murray visited adult websites and engaged in other prohibited computer-related activities while at work. She also said in her report that he downloaded sexually explicit photos of women and those photos were also found on his computer.

The investigation and Guess’ report led to Murray’s suspension in October 2009 and eventual firing in January 2010. His termination is pending before an arbitrator.

But during her testimony in the arbitration case, Guess, while under oath, allegedly contradicted what she wrote in her report. She testified that Murray did not visit any pornographic websites. She also admitted some of the pictures she included in her report as examples of his activities were actually taken at a BSO picnic.

Murray declined comment when contacted and his attorney, Mike Braverman, did not respond to several messages left at his office.

Murray has been a high-profile law-enforcement official after he and his family attracted national attention in 1998 when his then 13-year-old daughter Stephanie was impaled by a piece of metal debris while the family was traveling in a minivan on Interstate 95.

A 30-inch rod crashed through the windshield and pierced Stephanie's chest, barely missing her heart, but damaged her lungs. Instead of attempting to free her at the scene, paramedics drove the van to the hospital, where the rod was removed outside the emergency room.

Stephanie survived and the family embarked on a string of successful legislative and other initiatives intended to make roadways safer.

So when Murray was fired in 2010, his dismissal garnered media attention, including Guess’ report accusing him of harassment and violating BSO computer and Internet policies. The report also accused him of misusing law enforcement databases and circulating unflattering emails about a co-worker.

It is unclear how the state attorney’s office became involved in the case which is being investigated by prosecutors Adriana Alcalde and Stephanie Newman. They are said to be scrutinizing other aspects of Guess’ report.

Before joining BSO, she worked as a police officer in Sunrise. Guess, 56, earns $85,030 a year and despite being under investigation, she remains on the job. BSO media relations director Jim Leljedal said she has not been suspended or placed on administrative leave.

“I’m not going to get into the investigation at all,” Leljedal said. “She has an assignment and I can’t discuss it at all.”