By ELGIN JONES
FORT LAUDERDALE — A sergeant in the Internal Affairs Division of the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) won’t face prosecution over questionable information she included in a report which led to the firing of longtime lieutenant James Murray.
There was “no evidence to suggest” that the sergeant, Mary Guess, “knowingly included false statements or intentionally kept out true statements” in the report, Stefanie Newman, a prosecutor in the Broward State’s Attorney’s Office, wrote in a five-page memo closing the case.
Guess led a 2009 Internal Affairs investigation of Murray, who at the time was a lieutenant in charge of BSO’s elite Strategic Investigations Division (SID). Among other things, her report indicated that Murray engaged in harassment, visited adult websites while at work and downloaded sexually explicit pictures on his job computer. It also accused Murray of misusing law enforcement databases and circulating unflattering emails about a co-worker.
The report led to Murray’s suspension in October 2009 and eventual firing in January 2010. His union appealed the termination through an independent arbitrator, who has yet to issue a ruling.
During cross-examination in the arbitration hearings, Guess appeared to contradict what she wrote in her report. She testified that Murray did not visit any pornographic websites and admitted that some of the pictures she included in her report as examples of his activities had been taken at a BSO picnic. She also testified that some of the information in her report was only hearsay from her supervisors but she did not include statements from Murray’s supervisor denying accounts attributed to him.
Other witnesses testified during the arbitration case that Murray was authorized to use the law enforcement databases and the emails that were circulated did not contain anything explicit; only unflattering comments as well as photographs the employee in question had placed on a website of himself.
The criminal investigation of Guess did find that questionable and rumored information was contained in her report but prosecutors concluded it was not done intentionally.
“In light of the above-stated facts and law, it is the opinion of this ASA that there is insufficient evidence that Sergeant Guess engaged in any criminal conduct,” Newman wrote.
It is unclear if Guess, 57, who earns $85,030 a year, may have violated any departmental policies over the manner in which she wrote her report. She is an experienced investigator who has worked for BSO for over 30 years, the last 15 in Internal Affairs. Before joining BSO, she worked as a police officer in Sunrise.
“Sgt. Guess will remain in IA and is not under investigation,” Jim Leljedal, BSO’s director of Media Relations, said in response to a request for comment.
Murray could not be reached and his attorney, Mike Braverman, did not respond to questions about the decision not to file criminal charges against Guess.
Despite the controversial report that led to Murray’s firing, there is no apparent effort by the BSO to reinstate him in his job.
Several witnesses told prosecutors they believed Murray and other SID staff were targets of political retribution.
The witnesses said that leading up to the 2008 election for sheriff, Internal
Affairs asked Murray to use SID and its specialized capabilities to conduct undercover surveillance of deputies who were believed to be supporting candidates other that Sheriff Al Lamberti. Murray objected and refused to use departmental resources for such purposes.
A series of financial audits and staff inspections of SID followed but no wrongdoing was found. However, Murray was transferred out of SID and assigned to the Deerfield Beach district. He then became the target of an Internal Affairs investigation which resulted in Guess’ report.
Guess did not provide a statement to prosecutors and Lamberti was never asked to address the allegations. Leljedal did not respond to questions about them.
Prosecutors went through Guess’ e-mails but did not find any evidence in them to support the allegations.
“There was no testimony or evidence that came out during my investigation to suggest that Sheriff Lamberti had directed Mary Guess to specifically target Lt. Murray or SID,” Assistant State Attorney Newman told the South Florida Times.