A convicted child molester who spent recent years helping cast Hollywood movies under an alias was arrested Friday on suspicion of violating sex offender registry laws, a move his attorney decried as an injustice born out of nationwide outrage over pedophilia scandals.
Los Angeles prosecutors charged Jason James Murphy, 35, with failure to file a name change and failure to file a change of address, felonies that together carry a maximum sentence of three years in state prison.
The charges against Murphy resulted from a three-week investigation that followed a Times report detailing his 1996 conviction in Washington state for kidnapping and molesting an 8-year-old and his recent work as a casting associate on films featuring children, including the summer sci-fi hit "Super 8" and the upcoming comedy "The Three Stooges."
Murphy's attorney denounced the arrest, saying that her client had been in compliance with state rules and that the lead Sheriff's Department investigator had refused to return phone calls, emails and faxes attempting to prove that.
The detective "refused to consider any of the documentation we had and was hellbent in this charged environment of seeing Mr. Murphy arrested," said Shawn Holley, referring to the Penn State molestation scandal and child sex abuse charges filed earlier this month against a Santa Monica talent manager.
The detective, Ermina McKelvy, did not return a message seeking comment. In a news release, sheriff's officials said Murphy's use of an alias violated the law. He worked under the name Jason James professionally but did not list that name in the "Megan's Law" sex offender registry, as is required by law, they said.
Holley said that Murphy always used his legal name and driver's license when applying for jobs and that those who hired him knew his full name. She said the change of address charge appeared to stem from a trip he made this week to visit his parents in Seattle. Both she and Murphy left messages with sheriff's officials in West Hollywood, where he lived, in advance, and he registered with local authorities as soon as he arrived, Holley said.
Murphy served five years in prison for crimes against a boy whom he had met while working as a camp counselor. After being charged with molesting the child, Murphy abducted him from school and took him to New York, where he was later arrested.
After his incarceration, he moved to Los Angeles and registered as a sex offender. There were no allegations of misconduct with children in his casting work, but those who worked with him were stunned when they learned of his criminal history.
"To think that someone like this was among us is unthinkable," said "Super 8" director J.J. Abrams.
Murphy was released Friday afternoon on his own recognizance.
His lawyer said his career was in tatters.
"He served his time and came out of prison determined to do everything possible to rehabilitate himself and be a law-abiding and productive member of society," Holley said.