Sgt. Sean Murphy On Restricted Duty for Releasing Tsarnaev Photos

Pending an investigation.

Photo by Steve Annear

Photo by Steve Annear

Sgt. Sean P. Murphy, the 25-year veteran of the Massachusetts State Police who gave Boston magazine behind-the-scenes photos of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev manhunt, has been placed on restricted duty pending an investigation, the result of a hearing earlier today at the state police headquarters in Framingham.

Asked whether Murphy would be fired, State Police Colonel Timothy Alben was pretty clear: “I’m the colonel of the Massachusetts State Police, and I’m going to say it’s not a realistic option.” Alben went on to call Murphy’s actions “disappointing” based on his “blemish”-free record during his time serving with the department.

“Sean has been an exemplary employee here. He’s a man of character, he’s a man of honor, and has given a great deal to this organization…[But] we cannot afford to let pretrial publicity impede this prosecution or any others we are involved in,” said Alben. “And no one should be making decisions unilaterally about what information should be shared, and what should not.”

Alben added that the police are doing their due diligence and treating this investigation like any investigation within the department. “There is a process that we guarantee the rights of those being prosecuted,” he said.

Murphy has also been ordered not to talk to the media—his only words were that “life was good” and he felt “great” as he headed into the nearly hour-long hearing in front of a three-member panel at the headquarters.

But his attorney, Leonard Kesten, addressed the media afterward and said the notion that releasing the photos would impact the investigation is “preposterous,” adding that the general public has already seen video and live footage from Tsarnaev’s arrest. “It’s not going to affect the trial. Sergeant Murphy wouldn’t have done anything to damage the prosecution of [Tsarnaev].”

Kesten said “we are all human,” and when you look at why people do things, in Murphy’s case, he didn’t seek compensation, or hide from what he did, despite it being against the rules. “Sergeant Murphy acted from the heart,” Kesten said. “He showed courage in putting it out there with his name on it, and I think we all recognize that.”

Murphy’s son, Connor Murphy, 19, also addressed the media and called his dad a hero, saying if he could be one-quarter of the man his dad is, he’d be happy. “I support my dad 100 percent,” he said.

Murphy stood silently behind his attorney and son as they indicated that the investigation would be handled like any other within the state police department. They would not comment further on the situation or what the punishment could entail. They declined saying whether or not his firearm would be taken away.

Kesten, acknowledging that he understands why state police officials are upset, said whatever the outcome, Murphy has no regrets, and he suspects that the authorities will do the “right thing” when investigating the incident and deciding on which disciplinary route to take. “They have their system. It’s up to the colonel,” he said. “We have faith in them.”