Built like the college athlete he once was, the state lawmaker stood by the door in a downtown Harrisburg bar greeting his colleagues as they came in off the street. With his rusty-reddish hair and boyish looks adding to his style, he smiled and basked in their professional affection.
“Hello, Kevin,” said one member of the House of Representatives.
Hi, Kevin,” said another.
“Kevin,” said yet another.
I remember that night a few years ago when I ran into the now former state rep and accused wife-beater. We were just getting to know each other and I remember being impressed with the ease with which Murphy handled the acclaim. Not bad for a rough Irish kid from North Scranton who rose through the ranks of Scranton City Council and now sat as a state legislator.
People genuinely seemed to like him. I was starting to like him. Well-educated professionals in Scranton and Harrisburg were starting to like him. Most important, though, people were starting to respect him.
Then Murphy imploded.
Two days before last April’s primary election, I received an anonymous phone call from a guy who said Murphy was a fraud who had lied for years about graduating from the University of Scranton. He never finished, the man said.
C’mon, I said, Murphy can’t be that stupid.
Check it pout, the man said.
Murphy was that stupid.
The big lie contributed mightily to his loss in the primary to a former professional boxer and mixed martial arts cage fighter whose only political experience involved deciding whether to punch to the body or the head or go for a choke hold.
As primitive as that sounds, Murphy’s lie was more brutal. Consciously, willfully and intentionally betraying the people you get paid to serve is downright savage. And the good people of Scranton did not appreciate the deception.
Murphy tried his best to spin his deceit, lying again in the process, but he failed.
Then he lost.
Whatever respect he had earned unraveled.
Then Murphy exploded.
Police arrived on the scene after Murphy fled, leaving in his wake two people who claimed that he had beaten and battered them.
One victim was his wife.
The other was her male friend.
Murphy turned himself in the next day, which, according to witnesses who said he looked drunk before driving away, saved him from alcohol-related charges that would have added to the sad and complex nature of his criminal charges.
Murphy’s jury trial starts tomorrow morning in Lackawanna County Court. An out-of-town judge will preside as well as a prosecutor from the state attorney general’s office, appointed because of a conflict of interest between Murphy and District Attorney Andy Jarbola, who grew up across the street from Murphy.
Murphy did not take the witness stand during his preliminary hearing. His wife testified. Her male friend testified. And Murphy better testify if he expects jurors and the rest of us to take his story seriously and fairly weigh the evidence in the case.
The truth will help Murphy most of all.
As of now, though, his truth-telling record is seriously flawed.
Redemption is often a long road that starts with responsibility. Murphy can redeem himself. To do so, he must introduce a few personal laws for himself like he did when he introduced legislation in the good old days when he mattered.
Murphy no longer matters to most of us. To his children, however, he might still be somebody. That is all the more reason for Murphy to face and vanquish his demons, for him to try to regain his self-respect and move on with a life worth living.
As a late friend of mine always said, you don’t have to go to school to learn, the world’ll learn you.