Sean Murphy: Tsarnaev police photographer put on restricted duty

State trooper Sean Murphy (center) entering disciplinary hearing. Photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro
State trooper Sean Murphy, center, enters his disciplinary hearing Tuesday. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

The state police officer who released photos of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been put on restricted duty pending the outcome of a police investigation.

With his son, Connor, by his side, Sgt. Sean Murphy said he felt “great” as he entered the disciplinary hearing at 11 a.m.

Murphy appeared before a three-person panel at state police headquarters in Framingham to determine whether he would be suspended from the force for leaking the photographs to Boston Magazine.

His 19-year-old son told reporters, “I support [Murphy] 100 percent, (I) couldn’t be more proud of him. He’s a hero to me. If I could be one-quarter of the man he is, I would be happy.”

Murphy said he was inspired to release the photographs after Rolling Stone magazine announced that Tsarnaev’s portrait would appear on the cover of the magazine. He did not receive any compensation for the photos.

At 1:20 p.m., state police released the following statement regarding Murphy’s status:

Following a duty status hearing this morning at Massachusetts State Police General Headquarters, Sgt. Sean Murphy was placed on restricted duty until further notice while an internal investigation is conducted. State Police will conduct an internal investigation into Sgt. Murphy’s release of departmental photographs to a media outlet last week. The investigation, which is expected to take several weeks to complete at the minimum, will determine whether Sgt. Murphy violated State Police rules, regulations, policies or procedures. State Police took from Sgt. Murphy his use-of-force equipment, badge, and identification, and he will be assigned to administrative duties while on restricted duty. Additionally, he is being transferred from the Office of Media Relations to the Division of Field Services. The department will have no further comment while the internal investigation is ongoing.

Although Murphy has been ordered to keep tight-lipped with the media, he has explained his actions by saying that the photos show the “real Boston bomber, not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.”

Before the hearing, Murphy’s lawyer told the Boston Herald that he acknowledges he broke rules, but that his motives were pure.

“He certainly understands this is not going to be consequence-free,” Leonard Kesten, the attorney for Murphy, told the Herald. “We recognize he broke some rules, but he did it from the purest of motives, and we’re willing to do something reasonable with regard to a punishment. He should not be terminated.”

Support for Murphy has been overwhelming. A Facebook group, Save Sgt. Sean Murphy, had more than 59,000 “likes” as of Tuesday morning.

“This petition is to save Trooper Sean Murphy his job,” the page says. “He did what I think most of us would have liked to do or would have done had we had the same resources. He was upset [about] the Rolling Stone magazine cover. Sgt. Murphy could lose his job due to him wearing his heart on his sleeve.”

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