Joe Murray, attorney for Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens), arrives at...

Joe Murray, attorney for Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens), arrives at U.S. District Court in Central Islip in May. Credit: Getty Images/Michael M. Santiago

WASHINGTON — As Rep. George Santos navigates a swirl of legal challenges — a 13-count federal indictment, a House ethics investigation and multiple election law complaints — he has leaned on his personal attorney, Joe Murray, a former NYPD officer turned criminal defense lawyer who has confronted his own controversies in the past.

On Friday, Murray was at Santos' side again, representing him during a pretrial hearing in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, where Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) is facing felony charges of wire fraud, money laundering, making false statements to Congress and theft of public funds.

At the hearing, Murray told U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert he and Santos would spend the August congressional recess reviewing the more than 80,000 pages of evidence turned over by federal prosecutors.

"I have a wonderful working relationship with Mr. Harris and his team," Murray told the judge, referring to the prosecutor of the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Harris.

Murray, 56, is a former registered Democrat who became a Republican as he staged an unsuccessful bid for Queens District Attorney in 2019. An ex-amateur boxer, he once punched and broke the jaw of a fellow cop over a personal dispute, a move that led Murray to pursue a legal career as he mounted his own defense in a civil trial related to the fight.

The NYPD sought to fire Murray over the 1993 incident, but he fought successfully in court to keep his job, eventually retiring in June 2002 after 15 years on the force to pursue a law degree. He graduated from Queens College in 2003, and received his law degree from CUNY School of Law in 2006.

After stints working on medical malpractice cases and in personal injury law, Murray opened his private practice in Great Neck, specializing in criminal defense.

Murray decided to run for Queens district attorney after longtime District Attorney Richard Brown, who held the post for seven-terms, decided not to seek reelection. The race drew a number of Democrats, but Murray in news media interviews said he disagreed with the push by progressives to close Rikers Island and to forego prosecution of certain petty crimes, prompting him to run as a Republican.

During Murray’s district attorney campaign against Democrat Melinda Katz he befriended Santos, who had become active in Queens GOP politics, according to the congressman’s account in a February 2020 cable access interview show.

“I met you on the trail, and I instantly adored you,” Santos told Murray on the short-lived Queens cable show called “Talking GOP,” hosted by Santos. “I said, ‘this guy is it. You're legit.’”

Both Santos and Murray are staunch supporters of former President Donald Trump. Murray was seen in the crowd outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, as protesters stormed the building, according to a report by the outlet Mother Jones, which obtained video footage of Murray at the protest.

The footage shows Murray accompanied by his office manager Angela Ng, whom Santos since has hired to serve as a constituent services representative, according to the website Legistorm that tracks congressional office hirings.

Murray did not return a call seeking comment and Santos declined to be interviewed for this story.

Murray was at Santos’ side when the embattled congressman first arrived at the U.S. Capitol to take office in January, helping Santos make his way through the pack of cameras and reporters crowding his office hallway.

Murray often has assumed the role of Santos’ spokesman on matters related to the various investigations.

And as Santos’ attorney in the expected federal trial in Central Islip, he is taking on a case that legal analysts have said will be challenging given the months federal prosecutors have spent building their case.

Santos, who appeared with Murray at the pretrial hearing Friday, has pleaded not guilty to the 13-count criminal charges of wire fraud, money laundering, making false statements to Congress and theft of public funds.

Prosecutors in a 20-page indictment accuse Santos of defrauding a group of campaign donors by using the money they donated for personal expenses rather than the television ads and campaign materials he allegedly said the money was for.

Murray’s court filings provide some insight into the challenges he has faced since becoming Santos’ attorney.

In a June 5 filing, in which Murray argued that the names of two relatives who secured Santos’ $500,000 bond should remain sealed, Murray said he had received threatening messages.

Murray provided the court with samples of some of the expletive-laden messages he said he had received, including one in which the writer called him a “moron” and warned, “see you in court.”

Murray such comments show people are tuned into the case and eager to send threatening messages. Noting the letter he had filed requesting that the suretors remain anonymous, Murray told Seybert: “The fact that someone emailed me my own letter back to me soon after I filed it with the Court, tells us that they are just ready and waiting to pounce.” 

Sterling Marchand, a white collar criminal defense attorney based in Washington D.C., said while Murray’s law practice typically has typically focused on criminal defense, and not white collar crimes and election law, his personal background as a former NYPD officer and boxer may help him connect with jurors as he presents Santos’ defense.

“The fact that he may not be experienced in these particular charges, that doesn't necessarily handicap him as a lawyer,” Marchand said, noting that “a lot of defense work, regardless of the allegations, is introducing reasonable doubt, telling a narrative about who your client is.”

Marchand also said Murray’s past work representing police officers may have helped prepare him for the high-profile Santos case.

“I can see someone like George Santos who’s obviously a public figure, wanting someone who has experience representing public figures," and who "is kind of scrappy," Marchand said. "Santos may have been attracted to him for sort of who he is and the demeanor that he's going to present in a courtroom more than anything else.”

But Chris Mattei, a former chief of the financial fraud and public corruption unit with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut, said any attorney defending Santos will face a challenge because “the indictment to me seems to be very strong and very well supported.”

Mattei continued: “In these cases, what matters most is the strength of the evidence, and juries are instructed to focus on the evidence and not the lawyering. In my experience, that's exactly what they do. And so, what's going to matter most is the strength of the evidence that the jury is asked to consider.”

With Nicole Fuller

WASHINGTON — As Rep. George Santos navigates a swirl of legal challenges — a 13-count federal indictment, a House ethics investigation and multiple election law complaints — he has leaned on his personal attorney, Joe Murray, a former NYPD officer turned criminal defense lawyer who has confronted his own controversies in the past.

On Friday, Murray was at Santos' side again, representing him during a pretrial hearing in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, where Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) is facing felony charges of wire fraud, money laundering, making false statements to Congress and theft of public funds.

At the hearing, Murray told U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert he and Santos would spend the August congressional recess reviewing the more than 80,000 pages of evidence turned over by federal prosecutors.

"I have a wonderful working relationship with Mr. Harris and his team," Murray told the judge, referring to the prosecutor of the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Harris.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Rep. George Santos is relying heavily on his personal attorney, Joe Murray, a former NYPD officer and ex-amateur boxer, as Santos fights federal criminal charges.
  • Santos said he met Murray, a former NYPD officer and ex-amateur boxer, during Murray's unsuccessful campaign for Queens district attorney in 2019.
  • As Santos’ attorney in the expected federal trial, Murray faces a challenging road given the months federal prosecutors have spent building their case, analysts say.

Murray, 56, is a former registered Democrat who became a Republican as he staged an unsuccessful bid for Queens District Attorney in 2019. An ex-amateur boxer, he once punched and broke the jaw of a fellow cop over a personal dispute, a move that led Murray to pursue a legal career as he mounted his own defense in a civil trial related to the fight.

The NYPD sought to fire Murray over the 1993 incident, but he fought successfully in court to keep his job, eventually retiring in June 2002 after 15 years on the force to pursue a law degree. He graduated from Queens College in 2003, and received his law degree from CUNY School of Law in 2006.

After stints working on medical malpractice cases and in personal injury law, Murray opened his private practice in Great Neck, specializing in criminal defense.

Murray decided to run for Queens district attorney after longtime District Attorney Richard Brown, who held the post for seven-terms, decided not to seek reelection. The race drew a number of Democrats, but Murray in news media interviews said he disagreed with the push by progressives to close Rikers Island and to forego prosecution of certain petty crimes, prompting him to run as a Republican.

During Murray’s district attorney campaign against Democrat Melinda Katz he befriended Santos, who had become active in Queens GOP politics, according to the congressman’s account in a February 2020 cable access interview show.

“I met you on the trail, and I instantly adored you,” Santos told Murray on the short-lived Queens cable show called “Talking GOP,” hosted by Santos. “I said, ‘this guy is it. You're legit.’”

Supporting Santos

Both Santos and Murray are staunch supporters of former President Donald Trump. Murray was seen in the crowd outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, as protesters stormed the building, according to a report by the outlet Mother Jones, which obtained video footage of Murray at the protest.

The footage shows Murray accompanied by his office manager Angela Ng, whom Santos since has hired to serve as a constituent services representative, according to the website Legistorm that tracks congressional office hirings.

Murray did not return a call seeking comment and Santos declined to be interviewed for this story.

Murray was at Santos’ side when the embattled congressman first arrived at the U.S. Capitol to take office in January, helping Santos make his way through the pack of cameras and reporters crowding his office hallway.

Murray often has assumed the role of Santos’ spokesman on matters related to the various investigations.

And as Santos’ attorney in the expected federal trial in Central Islip, he is taking on a case that legal analysts have said will be challenging given the months federal prosecutors have spent building their case.

Santos, who appeared with Murray at the pretrial hearing Friday, has pleaded not guilty to the 13-count criminal charges of wire fraud, money laundering, making false statements to Congress and theft of public funds.

Prosecutors in a 20-page indictment accuse Santos of defrauding a group of campaign donors by using the money they donated for personal expenses rather than the television ads and campaign materials he allegedly said the money was for.

Murray’s court filings provide some insight into the challenges he has faced since becoming Santos’ attorney.

In a June 5 filing, in which Murray argued that the names of two relatives who secured Santos’ $500,000 bond should remain sealed, Murray said he had received threatening messages.

Murray provided the court with samples of some of the expletive-laden messages he said he had received, including one in which the writer called him a “moron” and warned, “see you in court.”

Murray such comments show people are tuned into the case and eager to send threatening messages. Noting the letter he had filed requesting that the suretors remain anonymous, Murray told Seybert: “The fact that someone emailed me my own letter back to me soon after I filed it with the Court, tells us that they are just ready and waiting to pounce.” 

Challenging defense

Sterling Marchand, a white collar criminal defense attorney based in Washington D.C., said while Murray’s law practice typically has typically focused on criminal defense, and not white collar crimes and election law, his personal background as a former NYPD officer and boxer may help him connect with jurors as he presents Santos’ defense.

“The fact that he may not be experienced in these particular charges, that doesn't necessarily handicap him as a lawyer,” Marchand said, noting that “a lot of defense work, regardless of the allegations, is introducing reasonable doubt, telling a narrative about who your client is.”

Marchand also said Murray’s past work representing police officers may have helped prepare him for the high-profile Santos case.

“I can see someone like George Santos who’s obviously a public figure, wanting someone who has experience representing public figures," and who "is kind of scrappy," Marchand said. "Santos may have been attracted to him for sort of who he is and the demeanor that he's going to present in a courtroom more than anything else.”

But Chris Mattei, a former chief of the financial fraud and public corruption unit with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut, said any attorney defending Santos will face a challenge because “the indictment to me seems to be very strong and very well supported.”

Mattei continued: “In these cases, what matters most is the strength of the evidence, and juries are instructed to focus on the evidence and not the lawyering. In my experience, that's exactly what they do. And so, what's going to matter most is the strength of the evidence that the jury is asked to consider.”

With Nicole Fuller

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