U.S. attorney for Rhode Island Paul F. Murray has suspended or delayed several investigations involving organized crime and political corruption in the 12 months he has been in office according to Federal law enforcement sources.
The sources said Murray told them he is "not interested" in pursuing political corruption and organized crime cases.
Murray was named U.S. attorney over Justice Department objections after Rhode Island Democratic politicians, including Rep. Fernand St Germain and Sen. Claiborne Pell, urged his appointment.
Justice Department objections primarily concerned Murray's age, vigor and lack of criminal law experience. Most of his experience was in civil law and at 62, he is among the four oldest U.S. attorneys in the country.
The Providence Journal-Bulletin reported today that a schism between the U.S. attorney and other federal law enforcement officials has virtually stopped the investigation and prosecution of serious federal crimes in Rhode Island.
The paper reported that federal law enforcement sources complained that Murray:
Told federal agents to back off from what they considered a major criminal investigation into alleged bribery and influence peddling in another federal agency. Law enforcement officials said they though the case could lead to the doorstep of a prominent Rhode Island Democratic officeholder.
Delayed convening a grand jury to investigate organized crime involvement in Rhode Island state and municipal governments until other law enforcement officials complained and higher-ups in the Justice Department intervened.
Delayed pursuing a "strong case" involving alleged payoffs to Rhode Island legislators by a corporation which wanted a bill killed.
Murray called the report "pure fabrication" and demanded that the paper reveal its sources.
The paper reported Murray has failed to live up to a written agreement with the Justice Department to handle court cases personally and to work more than a 9-to-5 day.
Murray's appointment last year was held up when the Justice Department took the unusual step of demanding the agreement in writing.
Federal law enforcement sources said Murray's office has concentrated on prosecuting relatively minor crimes such as check forgery and possession of stolen goods valued under $100. Such minor criminal activities account for 40 percent of all federal charges in the state in the last 12 months, according to federal court records.
These records show that under Murray the number of federal criminal charges filed and the number of persons sent to prison have fallen dramatically. Ninety persons were charged with federal crimes in the 12 months ended in August. Sixty-two of the cases have been closed and 13 persons sent to prison.
By contrast, 150 persons were charged in 1977 under Murray's predecessor, Lincoln C. Almond. Fifty went to prison.
Investigations alleged delayed under Murray involve labor racketeering, a nationwide illegal gambling network, alleged corruption of state politicians and the Rhode Island office of the U.S. Small Business Administration and a case involving the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Federal law enforcement officials complained that Murray is virtually inaccessible and rarely consults them on criminal investigations.
"He makes me feel I'm imposing when I try to talk to him about a case," said one federal law enforcement official.