DeCoatsworth sentencing delayed to let him reconsider plea

Richard DeCoatsworth, 28, once hailed as a hero cop, was given 20 days to reconsider his guilty plea to multiple counts last month.
Richard DeCoatsworth, 28, once hailed as a hero cop, was given 20 days to reconsider his guilty plea to multiple counts last month.
Posted: March 14, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Former Philadelphia Police Officer Richard DeCoatsworth's downward spiral was expected to bottom out Wednesday, when he was to be sentenced in Common Pleas Court on charges relating to drugs, assault, and promoting prostitution. Sentencing, however, was put off.

DeCoatsworth, 28, who sat next to Michelle Obama during the State of the Union address in 2009, was given 20 days to reconsider his guilty plea to multiple counts last month.

The former officer, who has been in custody for 10 months following his arrest in May, was hailed as a hero in 2007 after he was shot in the face during a traffic stop but still managed to pursue his attacker.

His attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., asked the court for two weeks to allow DeCoatsworth to decide whether to withdraw his plea.

After the hearing, Peruto said DeCoatsworth would withdraw his plea, which he described as a "sweetheart deal," when he returns to court April 1.

"This guy doesn't want a deal even if it means he's going to come home from prison today," Peruto told reporters. "He doesn't care. He wants to demonstrate his complete innocence," not just to the charges that were dismissed.

Peruto said he called the plea agreement a "sweetheart deal" because the sentencing guidelines call for zero to nine months of incarceration and DeCoatsworth has already spent 10 months behind bars.

Assistant District Attorney Ashley Lynam said DeCoatsworth would face a maximum of 20 years in prison on the charges to which he pleaded guilty.

DeCoatsworth was arrested May 18 after an armed standoff with police. He was charged with raping two female prostitutes between late May 14 and early May 15 after he forced them, at gunpoint, to take drugs.

Court testimony indicated that DeCoatsworth was dating one of the women and chauffeuring her to jobs.

Last month he pleaded guilty to simple assault, drug possession with intent to distribute, and promoting prostitution.

If DeCoatsworth withdraws the guilty plea, the rape charges and nearly 20 other counts would be reinstated.

As Wednesday's hearing began, Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Ehrlich asked DeCoatsworth why he had not completed a court-ordered mental-health exam. Ehrlich said the exam was necessary to help guide him during sentencing.

DeCoatsworth said he did not take the exam because the doctor would not allow his lawyer to be present.

Peruto also asked the judge to drop DeCoatsworth's high bail. Ehrlich denied the request.

DeCoatsworth retired from the police force on disability in 2011.


vclark@phillynews.com

215-854-5717

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