Ex-police officer DeCoatsworth withdraws guilty plea

Posted: April 03, 2014

Putting himself at risk of a much longer prison sentence, former Philadelphia police officer Richard DeCoatsworth on Tuesday withdrew his guilty plea to charges relating to drugs, assault, and promoting prostitution.

Asked by Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Ehrlich why he changed his mind, DeCoatsworth said: "I would like an opportunity to defend myself, your honor."

Pressed about why he changed his mind, DeCoatsworth said: "If I were a guilty man, the offer presented to me would be a good one. . . . For me it's more important for my innocence to come out."

DeCoatsworth, 28, was arrested May 18, after an armed standoff with police. He was charged with raping two prostitutes.

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

Assistant District Attorney Ashley Lynam said that had DeCoatsworth not changed his plea, he would have faced a maximum of 111/2 to 23 years in prison.

When his trial begins Nov. 3, he will face the more serious charges of kidnapping and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, among others, Ehrlich said.

Lynam said that if he is convicted, DeCoatsworth faces "decades" in prison.

After the hearing, defense attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr. said: "If you're truly innocent and you know you didn't do these things, to a strong-willed person, no amount of jail time is going to scare them from asserting their innocence."

In 2007, DeCoatsworth was hailed as a hero after he was shot in the face during a traffic stop but managed to chase down his attacker. He sat next to Michelle Obama during the 2009 State of the Union address.


vclark@phillynews.com

215-854-5717

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