DA won’t prosecute former judge on rape charge

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Three years ago, rape and witness intimidation charges brought down a prominent Albuquerque district court judge.

Wednesday, the district attorney in charge of handling that case says there isn’t enough evidence to move forward and that her office will not prosecute.

The case centered around Albert “Pat” Murdoch, the chief criminal district judge in 2011. He had served 26 years on the bench when a sudden arrest forced him to step down.

APD’s case against Murdoch started in July 2011 when vice detectives  bought a DVD from prostitute Renae Padilla for $400.

According to a criminal complaint, Padilla told officers Murdoch had paid her for $200 sex acts at his home on eight separate occasions.  Padilla claimed Murdoch performed oral sex on her against her will on two separate occasions, one of which she secretly recorded.

Albuquerque police arrested Murdoch the day after receiving that DVD on rape and witness intimidation charges. The latter charge was based on Padilla’s claims she posed hypothetical questions to Murdoch about what would happen if a woman made allegations against him. According to a criminal complaint, Murdoch told her “he would use the police and his connections to take care of the situation.”

Murdoch’s defense team aggressively denied those allegations, saying there wasn’t sufficient evidence and that the evidence APD cited contradicted department statements and didn’t match the charges filed.

There were also questions about Padilla’s credibility and her motives for recording Murdoch and selling the tape.

Because of Murdoch’s prominence in Albuquerque, Santa Fe DA Angela “Spence” Pacheco was assigned to the case as a special prosecutor. She dismissed charges in August 2011 to give APD more time to build a better case.

But Wednesday Pacheco told KRQE News 13 her office will not prosecute Murdoch saying there isn’t a strong enough case to proceed.

Murdoch’s attorney Ahmad Assed says his client was “vindicated” by that decision.

“I think the case in and of itself should never have been pursued,” Assed said. “We knew that the prosecutors did not have a case they could pursue in good faith.”

Assed says he’ll sit down with Murdoch to examine his future legal options including whether to pursue a civil lawsuit against APD.

The New Mexico Supreme Court allowed Murdoch to resign from the bench a week after his arrest, but under the condition that he never be a judge in the state again.

Assed doesn’t expect his client will appeal that decision and try to be a judge once more.

“He just basically, probably wants to move on with his life,” Assed said.

KRQE News 13 tried to reach Pacheco Wednesday night for more specifics on what evidence wasn’t there and what specifically led to the decision, but couldn’t reach her in time for this story.

Mayor’s office spokesperson Erin Thompson declined to make a city official or anyone from APD comment on the DA’s decision. Thompson’s only comment was that APD stands behind its case.

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