DeCoatsworth withdraws guilty plea

DeCoatsworth : November trial.
DeCoatsworth : November trial.
Posted: April 03, 2014

IT WAS NO April Fools' joke yesterday when disgraced former Philadelphia police officer Richard DeCoatsworth entered a courtroom to withdraw the guilty plea to which he had agreed in February for simple assault, drug possession and promoting prostitution.

Come November, the former "hero" cop will be tried on a stack of charges that could result in a decades-long prison sentence if he is convicted.

"Listen, obviously some people doubt his sanity because he turned down a deal where he would get time served, and I repeated that in the courtroom today," defense attorney A. Charles Peruto told reporters.

"But 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. He wants his day in court and that's what this country is all about."

DeCoatsworth, 28, made headlines in 2007 when he survived a shotgun blast to the face during a traffic stop, and again in 2009 when he was invited to sit next to first lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address.

But he retired from the force in December 2011 in the wake of misconduct allegations and lawsuits.

He was arrested last May for allegedly abusing his girlfriend and two prostitutes. He also is accused of serving as a pimp for the prostitutes, raping them, threatening them with a gun and forcing them to take drugs.

Citing the serious nature of the charges and calling him a danger to his accusers and to the community, Common Pleas Judge Charles Ehrlich agreed with prosecutors that he should remain in jail without bail.

Last month, DeCoatsworth informed Ehrlich that he needed more time to decide whether to go through with the plea.

Although Peruto said DeCoatsworth could have gone free if he had accepted the plea, Assistant District Attorney Ashley Lynam said he still could have faced a maximum sentence of 11 1/2 to 23 years behind bars.

Now he could face "decades more," Lynam said.


On Twitter: @MensahDean

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