Ex-officer Gets Probation In Extortion; Judge Cites Cooperation In Probe

Posted: January 08, 1986

Saying he hoped that his choice of sentence would encourage other officers to cooperate in investigations of corruption, U.S. District Judge Edward N. Cahn yesterday placed a former police lieutenant on probation for admitting that he funneled protection payoffs to his commander.

Cahn did so after Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard B. Klein praised the officer, former Lt. John Czmar, for coming forward and "striking another powerful blow to the now-crumbling code of silence" among corrupt officers in the Philadelphia Police Department.

Czmar's decision to cooperate with authorities - a decision made before he was indicted - provided the crucial testimony that linked former Chief Inspector Eugene J. Sullivan 3d with payoffs made to officers under his command, Klein said.

In part because of Czmar's testimony that he passed along $3,500 a month in payoffs to Sullivan, the former chief inspector of the Northeast Division was convicted in November of extortion.

"I accept that your cooperation was substantial, if not crucial," to the federal investigation, Cahn told Czmar, who pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy and extortion charges. " . . . Ordinarily, conduct you were engaged in requires a jail sentence . . . (but) a suspended sentence may be helpful to the U.S. attorney's attempt to root out corruption."

Cahn ordered Czmar, 39, to serve five years' probation, pay $2,000 in fines and contribute 3,750 hours in community service for his crimes.

Klein said afterward that he felt the sentence was appropriate in light of Czmar's cooperation.

"I think the sentence will send a message to other police officers that cooperation will be rewarded," Klein said.

Before Cahn imposed the sentence, Czmar offered a tearful apology for his actions.

"I'd like to apologize publicly to the court and the government for my conduct," Czmar said, his voice catching with emotion. " . . . I would like to apologize to (his wife) and members of my family, who I embarrassed and brought shame upon.

"And to the men and women of the Philadelphia Police Department who go out and do the job they are supposed to do . . . I ask their forgiveness."

Czmar, an 18-year veteran of the force, is the highest-ranking convicted officer to testify at a trial in the continuing federal investigation of police corruption. That investigation has resulted in the conviction of 29 officers.

Czmar agreed to cooperate with authorities last summer when he was first contacted by the FBI, Klein said. Unlike other officers, who agreed to cooperate eventually, Czmar did so before he was indicted or convicted of any crime, Klein said.

"At no time did he attempt to minimize his role," Klein told Cahn. "He was open and honest about what he did."

"When Mr. Czmar was contacted by the FBI," said Czmar's attorney, Robert McAteer, "he did not seek to find out what the government knew about his activities, because he knew what he did. He knew he did something wrong. He knew he couldn't erase it. So he tried to put it right."

According to his own testimony, Czmar was one of three lieutenants under Sullivan's command who collected protection payoffs extorted by vice squad officers under them.

A portion of the payments was then passed along to Sullivan, Czmar testified at Sullivan's trial. According to Klein, Sullivan received at least $200,000 over a four-year period.

Yesterday, Klein told Cahn that Czmar's testimony was crucial because he was the only lieutenant of the three under Sullivan who admitted passing money to the commander.

Of the two other lieutenants, one had died and the other, former Lt. Walter McDermott, was convicted in November with Sullivan. Both he and Sullivan are awaiting sentencing.

"The significance (of his testimony) was he provided what was the missing link" that tied Sullivan to the payoffs extorted by his vice squads, Klein said.

Although he stopped short of urging clemency for Czmar, Klein told Cahn that Czmar "has recognized the error of his past and has attempted to make a fresh start."

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