A former Millvale cop who tased a handcuffed man while he was sitting on the police station floor will spend three years on probation and carry out 300 hours of community service, a federal judge ruled Friday.
A federal jury deliberated less than four hours in November before convicting Nicole Murphy of depriving Thomas Jason James Smith of his civil rights while she was acting as a police officer.
Murphy, 31, of Shaler, who also goes by Nichole Murphy, told U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab that she was a “broken woman” who could not take a plea bargain from the government instead of going to trial because she could not lie about what happened.
“I never thought my actions would land me in front of you,” she said.
Murphy used the Taser on Smith at least three times as he sat on the floor of the police station Sept. 21, 2012.
Smith, who was 28 and living in Millvale at the time, was under arrest and subsequently pleaded guilty to public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
Millvale paid Smith $37,500 to settle a civil lawsuit over Murphy’s actions.
Schwab ruled that Murphy would spend the first year of her probation on home confinement.
During the first three months, she’s not allowed to leave her home except for court appearances or a medical necessity. For the following nine months she can leave home for work, to attend religious services and other activities approved by her probation officer, the judge said.
Federal sentencing guidelines recommended a prison sentence of 27 to 33 months. The government asked Schwab to give Murphy a sentence in that guideline range because she tried to cover up her actions by giving several conflicting reports of what happened.
“She has shown no remorse or even acknowledgment that what she did was wrong,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Cindy Chung.
Letting Murphy avoid a prison sentence would send the wrong message to other police officers, she said.
Having Murphy spend 100 hours a year for the next three years talking to law enforcement groups about the consequences of using excessive force will do more than locking her up would, the judge said.
“Incarcerating the defendant for one, two or three years does not achieve that goal,” he said.
Although Murphy received the sentence she asked for, Friday was a somber day because she remains a convicted felon unable to pursue her lifelong dream of being a police officer, said her attorney, Phillip DiLucente.
“We are humbled by this result. We are relieved by this result,” he said.
DiLucente said that while Murphy believes she did not use excessive force, she knows the jury found otherwise, and she can talk to police officers about the need for caution when it comes to using force.
Murphy is considering an appeal of her conviction, he said.