Disgraced ex-cop sentenced to house arrest for extortion scheme

Posted: March 28, 2014

"AN HONEST mistake" is how disgraced ex-cop Jonathan Lazarde yesterday described the extortion scheme he undertook last year that ended his career and resulted in his pleading guilty in January.

"It was the worst decision I ever made," Lazarde, 28, added during his sentencing hearing in Common Pleas Court.

"I'm still stuck on 'an honest mis-take,' " Judge Robert P. Coleman said after Lazarde spoke.

The judge told Lazarde misconduct like his leads to distrust of police and makes it harder for prosecutors to win convictions.

"Don't hold it against the defendant for a choice of words that are inarticulate," said defense attorney Jack McMahon, who argued Lazarde took responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty.

Assistant District Attorney Frank Fina said Lazarde deserved jail time, but that he would not oppose McMahon's request for a house-arrest sentence.

Coleman, appearing reluctant, went along with the lawyers and sentenced Lazarde to three months of house arrest, six years of probation and 100 hours of community service.

"Sir, you have been given a gift. Had this gone to trial, you would have been looking at decades in prison," Coleman told Lazarde.

The judge also wondered aloud why the District Attorney's Office dropped extortion and bribery charges, allowing Lazarde to plead guilty to a lone charge of criminal use of a communication facility - a third-degree felony.

Fina told the Daily News after the hearing that he did not seek jail time due to concerns for Lazarde's safety.

"We had safety concerns because he was a prior police officer," Fina said. "I don't know if it was preferential [treatment], but there were concerns that he would be at risk in prison."

Lazarde could have received up to nine months in jail, said Fina, the former chief deputy in the state Attorney General's Office. Fina now works in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office anti-corruption unit.

Lazarde was a five-year police veteran assigned to Olney's 35th District last year when he arrested a man on a gun charge and then offered not to attend court proceedings to ensure an acquittal if the suspect paid him $5,000.

The suspect instead reported the extortion plot to Internal Affairs investigators, who set up a sting operation in April in which they caught Lazarde allegedly pocketing $5,000 in marked bills. He resigned from the force April 21 and was arrested May 30.

On Twitter: @MensahDean

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