Ex-hero cop pleads guilty to drug, assault charges

Posted: February 27, 2014

THE FALL FROM grace is almost complete for onetime hero police officer Richard DeCoatsworth, who entered a courtroom yesterday and pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution, simple assault and drug possession.

DeCoatsworth, 28, could face seven to 14 years in state prison when sentenced March 11 by Common Pleas Judge Charles Ehrlich.

His attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., however, said DeCoatsworth has changed, no longer uses heroin to cope with the pain of a gunshot wound to the face he suffered in the line of duty and should be released with credit for time served.

Behind bars since May on bail amounts ranging from $60 million to the current $3 million, DeCoatsworth's current predicament is a far cry from how his law-enforcement career began.

In September 2007, the 21-year-old rookie cop made headlines for surviving a shotgun blast to the face and helping to catch the gunman during a traffic stop.

DeCoatsworth was soon transferred to the Police Department's elite Highway Patrol, and in 2009 was invited to sit next to Michelle Obama during President Obama's first address to Congress.

He retired abruptly in 2011. By then, the city had settled a series of lawsuits - the largest for $1.5 million - in which DeCoatsworth was accused of misconduct.

DeCoatsworth apparently hit rock bottom in May, when he was arrested for choking and punching his girlfriend and for serving as a pimp for two prostitutes.

The disgraced ex-cop was initially charged with more than 30 crimes that could have resulted in a lifetime in prison. The charges included rape, aggravated assault, human trafficking, witness intimidation, terroristic threats and impersonating an officer.

All but the three charges he pleaded guilty to were dropped yesterday, which prompted DeCoatsworth's father to question the validity of the entire case.

"From a $60 million bail to this? Apparently, there was no case," Mark DeCoatsworth said.

"These women . . . were hookers before he knew them and they are hookers now," he said of the two women for whom his son pleaded to pimping.

Assistant District Attorney Ashley Lynam disputed the senior DeCoatsworth's assessment of the case, saying the former cop would not have pleaded guilty if the case lacked merit.

"The fact that Richard DeCoatsworth was a former police officer has absolutely no bearing on any decisions made by us," she said. "It's not going to be relevant at sentencing and it certainly isn't relevant in the plea today."

Peruto said DeCoatsworth turned to heroin after Percocet failed to relieve his pain.

"He's a different person now than he was when he was arrested. When he was arrested, his brains were scrambled. He got involved with things to relieve the pain," Peruto said. "But you don't know what you would do if you got shot in the face."

On Twitter: @MensahDean

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