Queens GOP hones in on attorney Joe Murray as DA candidate

Attorney Joe Murray (left) is the Queens GOP’s likely candidate for Queens District Attorney. He spoke with the  Eagle  about his client, NYPD Sergeant’s Steven Lee’s lawsuit against the NYPD.  Eagle  file photo by David Brand

Attorney Joe Murray (left) is the Queens GOP’s likely candidate for Queens District Attorney. He spoke with the Eagle about his client, NYPD Sergeant’s Steven Lee’s lawsuit against the NYPD. Eagle file photo by David Brand

By David Brand

The Queens County Republican Party will likely nominate defense attorney Joe Murray, a former NYPD officer, as their candidate in the general election for Queens district attorney, the Eagle has learned. Murray’s nomination would end months of speculation about who would replace candidate Daniel Kogan on the GOP line.

Kogan said he was willing to step aside in July and the Queens GOP nominated him for a judgeship at their convention Wednesday night, opening up the slot for another candidate.

Murray spoke with the Eagle Thursday and said he was interested in gaining the nomination.

Though Murray has not yet filed with the Board of Elections, Queens GOP members say he is the likely candidate.

The nominating process is somewhat complicated because Kogan was removed from the DA slot and the new nomination must be certified by the BOE. Murray is a registered Democrat and his nomination would also involve a Wilson-Pakula maneuver — a state law that allows a party to nominate a candidate who is not registered as a member of that party.

“We were approached by Joe Murray, he impressed us,” said Queens GOP chairperson Joann Arriola.

Arriola said it was too early to declare Murray the official nominee.

“He will meet with the state committee and they will make a decision,” she said.

Murray grew up in Howard Beach and is a Queens-based defense attorney who served for several years in the NYPD’s 115th Precinct. He supported Judge Gregory Lasak for DA and attended Lasak’s election night event, where he told the Eagle he was concerned about the results of the primary.

That night public defender Tiffany Cabán appeared to pull off a stunning victory. “For our sake and the sake of our families, we cannot allow these progressive socialists to take control of the district attorney’s Office,” Murray told the Eagle.

As the race dragged on and Borough President Melinda Katz took the lead, Murray said he remained concerned about the direction of the office under either candidate. He called Katz a “career politician” who had her sights set on her next political office.

In July, Murray told the Eagle he was interested in running on the GOP line if Lasak did not pursue the spot. Lasak decided not to run.

The Queens GOP’s nomination of Kogan for a judgeship vacated the position for Murray.

Murray served in the NYPD for several years but left after locking horns with precinct brass. Murray said the issues began after an altercation with another office who had roughed up Murray’s friend. The rival cop shoved Murray and Murray, a heavyweight boxer, threw a punch that broke that the man’s jaw, he said. Murray beat the departmental charges against him but said he became persona non grata among supervisors and commanders in the 115th Precinct.

“I took the side of the perp [his friend] and the department hung me out to dry,” Murray told the Eagle in May during an interview for a story about one of Murray’s clients, an NYPD sergeant named Steven Lee.

Lee is suing the NYPD for retaliating against him after he attempted to expose corruption in the 109th Precinct.

In his complaint, Lee claims that Internal Affairs ignored his secret audio tapes, which exposed bribery, prostitution and drug dealing at Flushing karaoke bars. The NYPD elected not to pursue the protection racket that Lee says involved high-ranking cops in the 109th, organized crime figures and an ex-cop who coerced bars into contracting with his security firm, he said. In response to Lee’s allegations, the NYPD has retaliated against him, Murray said.

Murray said cases like Lee’s — a lone cop taking on a culture of corruption — are what motivated him to become an attorney.

“This is why I became a lawyer,” Murray said. “They’re continuing to harass him and confront him. They’re cowards.”

During the interview, Murray recalled his own experiences with the NYPD. After he beat the departmental charges, commanders singled him out

Murray said the ill will intensified when he questioned a new policy that replaced experienced, trained officers on the DWI Unit with rookie cops because of overtime concerns.

“They figured they were going to take all these rookies, put them on the midnight shifts and assign them arrests for DWI, and do it on straight time,” he said. “But they gave them barely any training and they’re telling them to stick their head in the cars and take a whiff.

“They were just looking for numbers and the rookies are pups. They’ll do what they’re told,” he continued.

Murray said some directives endangered cops and other New Yorkers, including an instruction to pursue drivers who seemed to deliberately avoid checkpoints, violating the law.

“The commanding officer of the unit got very upset with me because I kept trying to fight back,” he said. “It’s so hard for the rookies to stand up for themselves and so I locked horns with him.”

The commanding officer sent Murray back to the 115th, where he saw a colleague get suspended by the Civilian Complaint Review Board over what he considered a bogus charge. He wrote a letter to the police commissioner.

“So now I get known as a letter-writer,” he said. “The new [Commanding Officer] comes in, calls me into his office and says, ‘I got the story on you. You’re not allowed to write any letters unless you come to me first.’”

Eventually, Murray retired from the force and pursued his law degree.