Philly's Drug War: It's Costly, It's Corrupt, and It's Putting Innocent People Behind Bars

Allegations of police misconduct get around 1,000 cases thrown out.

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Andrey Kiselev | Dreamstime

The war on drugs comes with a big price tag in Philadelphia. The city is spending millions to settle more than 300 lawsuits stemming from the local narcotics unit's misbehavior.

Many of the suits can be traced to the acts of one policeman. In 2013 the FBI arrested Jeffrey Walker, a veteran officer who confessed to planting drugs in a dealer's car and then stealing money from him. He later testified against fellow members of the unit and has served prison time.

Walker was a narcotics officer for 14 years. The courts have thrown out scores of cases involving him or other officers he implicated, and the suits against the city are piling up. But as expensive as the lawsuits are proving to be, the bigger price paid goes beyond taxpayers' money: People may have served time for crimes they didn't commit.

Take Marcia Hintz. She was raising her grandchild and holding down a job working with mentally challenged adults when police arrested her in September 2006, saying she had sold Xanax pills to an undercover agent. Hintz testified in her own defense, claiming that the drugs found in her house were prescribed to her longtime live-in friend. A policeman testified against her.

"He was a cop," Hintz told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "Who are you going to believe?"

Hintz served three years of a five-to-10-year sentence. Her case was eventually thrown out, along with around 1,000 other cases. The city awarded her $625,000 to compensate for her years behind bars.

Kareem Torain was arrested for drug possession in 2001. He rejected a plea deal that may have netted him a sentence of just three years, figuring he would never be convicted for something he didn't do. Instead, the court sentenced him to 12 and a half to 22 and a half years in prison. He served 13 years before Walker admitted the drugs at the scene were planted and the evidence to justify the warrant largely fabricated. The case was thrown out, and Torain is now seeking $1.8 million in compensation.

The scandal has led to criminal charges as well as civil suits. In 2015, six Philadelphia cops stood accused of assaulting and robbing drug suspects. Walker testified against them, as did 19 of the officers' alleged victims. But the jury wasn't convinced by the testimony of percieved drug dealers and a disgraced policeman. The six officers were acquitted, and five returned to active duty.

Even before Walker's arrest, scandals were brewing in the Philadelphia Police Department. The Inquirer won a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for its series "Tainted Justice," which documented corruption in the narcotics unit. And the revelations continue unabated today. In August a member of the narcotics unit confessed to trading drugs in exchange for sex. Just in the last couple of weeks, a Philadelphia officer was arrested for selling heroin and cocaine bought from members of the Baltimore police force.

According to a joint investigation by the Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, the city has paid $2 million is suits stemming from the narcotic cases so far and expects to pay around $8 million more in the cases to come.

NEXT: Will This Awful Bill Allowing Warrantless Domestic Snooping Get Shoved Into an End-of-Year Spending Plan?

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  1. Quelle surprise.

  2. In 2013 the FBI arrested Jeffrey Walker, a veteran officer who confessed to planting drugs in a dealer’s car and then stealing money from him. He later testified against fellow members of the unit and has served prison time.

    Walker was a narcotics officer for 14 years.

    He was a huge fan of The Shield, i take it.

    1. I just binged the Glenn Close/Anthony Anderson season – that show was awesome, prescient and gave us Walt Goggins.

      1. Some people say Sons of Anarchy peaked in season 2, but for Crusty it didn’t even get off the ground until Goggins showed up in season 5.

  3. The war on drugs comes with a big price tag in Philadelphia.

    1.5 cents per ounce?

  4. The war on drugs comes with a big price tag in Philadelphia.

    1.5 cents per ounce?

  5. Meanwhile, down goes Garrison Keeler. First Charlie Rosen, then Matt Lauer and now Garrison Keeler. Christmas has truly come early. Who knew we were living well enough to see this.

    https://twitter.com/AP/status/935921836856172546

      1. Don’t let jealousy ruin such a wonderful moment of schadenfreude. Come on, loathing smug, assholes like Keeler and enjoying them being exposed as pervert hypocrites is one of the few things that brings us together. Come on Used Cars. just feel the love.

        1. Jesus dude. You just might be a partisan hack if you treat the Prairie Home Companion like a Clinton charity. I even remember a time when quaint midwestern nostalgia fests were treasured by conservatives (eg little house on the prairie). That was back when conservatives were interested in conserving american values. Now all u need is to retweet some nazis or rape a couple of kids and the Republican Party will nominate you to high office.

          Fun fact: Little House has a fairly direct connection to the funding of one of the LPs presidential runs in the 70s because coauthor rose wilder lane creepily adopted one of the nominees as an adult

          1. I have always hated that show. First, it was never funny. Second, it totally patronizing and insulting to people from small towns. Keeler was just an asshole who made his entire career demeaning and insulting the people he grew up around. There is nothing partisan about this. Keeler could be a Republican and i still would think he is an asshole for making his entire career being a condescending asshole to people from small towns.

          2. The only American value Parrie Home Companion ever preserved was snobbery.

      2. Keillor expressed concern that the “country is caught in the grip of a mania” when it comes to reporting sexual misconduct and that he wishes someone would resist.

        How long have these fucking proggies ignored Clinton’s and Harvey’s rapes? Sucking up their campaign contributions and fund raising. Now they act all surprised and shit.

        It’s a wonderful thing when statists have to suffer their own petards.

    1. Please let this be the end of Writers Almanac. please please please please

      1. The only Christmas present I need is all media agreeing to never rerun or discuss Prairie Home Companion again.

        1. On my local college radio station, I get PHC three times a week, and WA three times a day.

          It’s hell, I tell you.

      1. They seem to be conforming to a pattern. They are all smug, prone to lecture about their piety and other’s failure to meet their standards as if they are compensating for something, fifty or older, well-established pillars of the industry and hideously ugly.

        So, compile a list of male journalists who meet that description and one of them will likely be the answer to “who’s next?”.

        1. They are all smug, prone to lecture about their piety and other’s failure to meet their standards as if they are compensating for something, fifty or older, well-established pillars of the industry and hideously ugly.

          That doesn’t narrow it down much. Though Matt Lauer wasn’t hideous.

          1. Um which one of these was Louis CK?

            1. I was thinking more about media figures rather than Hollywood types.

            2. Compensating for something, obviously. It’s like you never listened to everything in his stand-up.

              1. From the little I have seen, most of his stand up consists of some variation of “I am a really creepy guy but that is okay because I love my daughters”. Compensating for something describes what I have seen pretty well.

                1. Exactly, I was responding Jay Dubya’s question.

          2. I suppose it is not fair to call Lauer hideous.

      2. Here is your answer Crusty, although I have no idea who this guy is.

        http://twitter.com/THR/status/935934022366257152

    2. David Burge?
      @iowahawkblog
      Following Following @iowahawkblog
      More
      It was a quiet late Fall day in Lake Woebegon, the frost glisten of Sven Olson’s pond. I stopped by the Chatterbox cafe for a cup of coffee with Al Franken, and we agreed to treat ourselves to a waitress sandwich

    3. But these are just allegations that he denies. Surely you aren’t applying a different standard to Keeler than to Moore just because you don’t like Keeler.

      1. If Keeler is innocent, I hope he is vindicated. That said, do you have reason to believe that these things are untrue?

        1. I don’t even know what the allegations are. None of the reports I’ve seen provide any details, so I can’t make any assessment. Unlike with Moore, where we have named accusers and detailed narratives.

          1. Time will tell. That said, I find it hard to believe that Minnesota Public Radio would have fired him without pretty credible allegations. I can’t stand the guy but he is an institution to a lot of people. I seriously doubt they would have done this unless they felt they had no choice. But, we will see.

            1. I find it hard to believe that multiple accusers would make up credible and very similar allegations against Moore.

              1. And all of them waited for 40 years despite the guy being one of the most controversial and well-known figures in Alabama politics for the last ten? They all just waited and didn’t say anything until he won the primary and it was a month before the election?

                You find that believable? You also find it believable that Roy Moore had a thing for assaulting young women but is somehow the only such person in known history to suddenly stop doing so? The guy is some kind of a deviant but amazingly found Jesus and hasn’t done anything in 40 years. And that is believable? More believable than the whole thing was a political hit job that once it got rolling caused multiple people to feel safe to lie and participate in?

                The number of accusers doesn’t necessarily make them more credible. A large number of accusors makes it easier for liars to come forward just like it does for those telling the truth. There is a reason why Gloria Aldred crawled out of her hole after the Washington Post story and not before.

                1. Yes, I do find it believable. They only talked when the WaPo found them and convinced them. Moore’s interview responses to the allegations made them even more believable.

                  And, while it’s not clear yet, it looks the Keeler allegations may relate back many years too and the MPR press release indicates they haven’t even finished an internal investigation yet. If it turns out that the incident is decades old, are you going to find the allegations unbelievable.

                  1. In all this time no one else found them despite Roy Moore’s many enemies? If you believe that it is because you want it to be true not because there is any reason to believe it is.

            2. He’s also an old retired guy who only does some production stuff for them now. Might have been easier to just let him go rather than deal with things.

              I have reason to doubt the accusations simply because they are not proven accusations yet.

              1. You would think that they would have quietly let him retire if there were any way to cover this up.

    4. This is rather inconvenient.

      http://twitter.com/Cernovich/s…..3546456064

      1. Polite Minnesotans may be, but apparently there are two things you just do NOT fuck with: their women and their lutefisk.

  6. And isn’t living in Filthacrapia punishment enough?

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