Castor Majuro Conley faced a disheartening ultimatum: pay $983 in restitution for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle or receive a felony conviction, threatening all current and future job prospects.
The 27-year-old was convicted of being a middleman in car thieving scheme. Conley bought a 1993 Nissan pickup truck from a thief, then sold it to someone else who sold it to a car-crushing yard for scrap.
The truck’s owner, Shawn Stratton, wanted restitution for the hundreds of dollars in an insurance deductibles and stolen camping equipment he had in his truck. Though unauthorized use of a motor vehicle ranks as a felony in Oregon, Deputy District Attorney Kevin Demer agreed to classify the conviction as a misdemeanor if Conley came up with the money.
Demer said that out of the 36 defendants charged so far in relation to this specific car-crushing yard operation, Conley is the most minor player of them all.
“And frankly, he owned up to it,” Demer told The Oregonian.
With a wife and a 17-month-old child at home, Conley was unable to scrape together the $983.
In the courtroom’s gallery last week, civil attorney Colin M. Murphy overheard a defense attorney and a prosecutor talking about Conley’s case. Murphy heard them say it was a shame the man couldn’t get the money in time.
Instead of simply waiting for his own business-dispute case to be called, Murphy spoke up and offered loan the money to Conley out of his own pocket.
“I’ve practiced for 22 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it, and I don’t expect to again,” Conley’s defense attorney, Lawrence Taylor, told The Oregonian. The stunned Taylor had never even seen Murphy before. “It was mere coincidence,” Taylor said.
Coincidence, and a heartening show of sympathy.
“If I get paid back, great,” Murphy said. “If I don’t, no problem. I’m not going to hold the kid to it.”
Word quickly spread of Murphy’s generosity. Encouraging emails and calls arrived from judges, the District Attorney’s Office, defense attorneys, court staff and leaders at the State Bar.
“All of us sometime in our lives have done something we would rather not have done,” Murphy told The Oregonian. “And the time will come when perhaps we are going to be held accountable. And I think at that point we would like to have somebody show us mercy.”