Disgraced ex-cop refuses to plead guilty

Posted: March 14, 2014

RICHARD DeCoatsworth was once called a hero cop after surviving a shotgun blast to the face. Now the disgraced ex-cop is more like a drama king - one who really annoyed Common Pleas Judge Charles Ehrlich yesterday.

Rather than plead guilty to promoting prostitution and related counts - as was expected - the jailed DeCoatsworth instead accused a city prosecutor of spewing lies about him, attempted to justify ignoring Ehrlich's order to submit to a presentencing mental-health exam and apparently decided to withdraw his guilty plea after all.

DeCoatsworth, 28, in a blue business suit, his bullet-scarred lower face covered by a thick growth of beard, stood and claimed that Assistant District Attorney Ashley Lynam had told "lie after lie after lie" about him. He said he refused to take the mental-health exam because his lawyer had been barred from being with him.

But Ehrlich said that that was not true, and that arrangements had been made for DeCoatsworth's lawyer to attend the testing session earlier this week.

The judge scolded DeCoatsworth for defying the court order, telling the defendant the test would help him make "the most appropriate and hopefully thoughtful decision in this case" during the sentencing hearing.

Ehrlich said he believed DeCoatsworth's real reason for refusing to take the exam was because he already decided to withdraw his guilty plea and was concerned that the exam findings would be used against him at trial. The judge schooled DeCoatsworth that the exam could be used only for sentencing purposes.

"Defendants don't determine which exams are done," Ehrlich said. "Judges determine that."

At the request of defense lawyer A. Charles Peruto, Ehrlich scheduled April 1 as DeCoatsworth's next court date. The defendant at that time must tell the judge if he will take the guilty plea and admit to pimping, simple assault and a drug charge, or if he will go to trial on dozens of charges tied to a May arrest involving his girlfriend and two prostitutes.

In jail since his arrest, DeCoatsworth became addicted to pain medication and then heroin after being shot as a rookie cop in 2007.

Peruto told reporters that he believes DeCoatsworth will go to trial, despite having been offered a "sweetheart deal" that could have allowed him to be released from jail immediately under state sentencing guidelines.

"He wants his day in court, I'm positive of it," Peruto said. "He doesn't want to plead guilty to a crime he didn't commit."

Before the hearing, Lynam said that if DeCoatsworth pleaded guilty, she would ask Ehrlich to sentence him to six to 12 years in state prison and five years of probation afterward.

DeCoatsworth retired from the police force in 2011 after a five-year career that included his being named as a defendant in a series of civil-rights lawsuits. The city paid out more than $1.5 million to settle the suits.


On Twitter: @MensahDean

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