AUGUSTA — For about four years, Diana Murphy has been working her way through layers of state government to achieve an important goal: restitution for Kennebec County crime victims.

This year alone, Murphy has been able to secure $111,000 through garnished tax returns from defendants who have failed to pay their court-ordered restitution for crimes they have been found guilty of, and $23,000 more is in the pipeline. Last year, the amount was $77,000.

“This is an absolute game-changer,” Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said Tuesday.

District Attorney Maeghan Malone

Maloney and Murphy appeared before the Kennebec County commissioners Tuesday to give a brief presentation on the work that was made possible when commissioners approved the policy to go after tax returns of restitution scofflaws four years ago. “I am so, so pleased with the work she’s been doing,” Maloney said of Murphy.

As legal restitution specialist for the District Attorney’s office, Murphy has worked with Devin Parsons, Kennebec County’s information technology director, to roll back the layers of state bureaucracy and secure restitution via tax returns.

Now, they are hoping that other Maine counties will take notice. Next week, Murphy, Parsons and Cara Cookson, a victim witness advocate coordinator with the state of Maine, will hold an online training to explain the process to other district attorneys’ offices.


Maloney said when defendants failed to pay their obligations her office’s only recourse had been to bring the matter back to court for an order to pay. And if the defendant didn’t pay, they would be called back to court.

“A far more effective way for getting money for the victims is going after the tax returns,” Maloney said.

The process has not been easy, according to Murphy, who has worked for Kennebec County for 23 years. It includes tracking whether any restitution may have been paid, finding whether co-defendants have paid their obligations and tracking whether a single defendant owes restitution to more than one victim.

“When you are a victim of theft or somebody goes into your home and invades your privacy, it’s not just that TV or that laptop that was stolen,” Murphy said. “You take away something from that person emotionally, and you can’t get that back, and that is so heartbreaking.”

Since Murphy started down this path four years ago, she said, other counties have also started taking a look at doing something similar, but not all commissioners have approved a policy allowing that to happen.

Murphy said unpaid restitution cases date back to 1986, and one resolved this year dates back to 1998.

“It’s heartbreaking when I can’t make a victim whole,” Murphy said. “Being able to do this is so rewarding.”

Murphy said restitution has no statute of limitations, and even if a victim of a crime has died, the restitution is still owed to that person’s estate. That’s something that many defendants don’t understand, she said.

“Restitution has a long way to go,” she said, “but we have come a long way.”

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