Alleged drug-dealing Philly cop to remain locked up

Posted: June 22, 2012

Despite an impassioned pitch by defense attorney Scott DiClaudio, a federal magistrate on Friday ordered that Philadelphia police officer Jonathan Garcia must remain in federal custody pending trial.

Garcia, 23, was charged on June 20 with distributing heroin and using his department-issued, semi-automatic pistol to facilitate drug deals. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Brenner said Garcia, who is likely to face additional gun and robbery charges soon, was a danger to the community and a flight risk and should not be released on bail.

The prosecutor said Garcia dealt heroin on six separate occasions over a six-week period in May and June, and that recorded conversations the FBI made between Garcia and a confidential FBI informant Garcia believed was a drug dealer were "shocking."

The prosecutor said Garcia expected timely payment for drugs he gave the informant on consignment, once leaving a voicemail message on the informant's phone: "You better pay me back, I'm not playin.'"

"He was exuberant and ecstatic about his heroin trafficking business," Brenner said, adding, "clearly, this is an individual who holds himself above the law...to perpetrate crimes, day after day, week after week."

But DiClaudio accused Brenner of making "a good closing or a good sentencing argument" and said the quantitites of heroin Garcia allegedly distributed were so small that he would not have even have faced state charges.

The defense attorney suggested that Garcia had landed in federal court "only because he's a police officer." If Garcia was such a danger to the community and the heroin trafficker Brenner claimed, then why did authorities permit his client to commit the alleged crimes for six weeks before arresting him on June 19?

As to the uncharged allegations that Garcia robbed a second informant he thought was a drug dealer of 10 OxyContin pills on June 19, DiClaudio said if Garcia actually did that, he was "foolish" and had done so only because he was addicted to a prescription painkiller as a result of an injury.

DiClaudio said Garcia was a "lifelong resident" of Philadelphia, the father of a six-month old child and that family members were willing to put their homes up as collateral for Garcia's bail.

But U.S. Magistrate Thomas Reuter said that based on the government's recitation of Garcia's alleged criminal acts, the feds' "case is very strong and the likelihood of conviction is strong." Garcia faces a mandatory minimum 30-year prison sentence if convicted of all charges and thus had "incentive" to flee if he were released on bail, Reuter said.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has suspended Garcia, a three-year veteran who worked out of the 17th Police District in Point Breeze, for 30 days with intent to dismiss.

Contact Michael Hinkelman at 215-854-2656 or hinkelm@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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