Convicted of theft, ex-cop erupts at jury

Arrested: Lt. Aisha Perry (left), Officer George Suarez.
Arrested: Lt. Aisha Perry (left), Officer George Suarez.
Posted: May 01, 2014

A former Philadelphia police lieutenant and a veteran officer were found guilty Thursday of stealing utilities services while renovating four properties.

Former Lt. Aisha Perry erupted as the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury of seven women and five men announced their verdicts.

"I didn't do this, I didn't do this," Perry, 54, cried out to the stunned courtroom. "I'm a whistle-blower!"

Perry said she had provided information to police officials and the FBI about corrupt officers and said the charges against her were retaliation.

Judge Earl W. Trent tried several times to quiet Perry, ultimately threatening to hold her in contempt of court. Perry's attorney, Tariq El-Shabazz, was similarly unsuccessful trying to calm her.

"You'll have your time to say all of this," Trent told her, referring to the June 11 sentencing of her and codefendant George Suarez, 55.

Perry's outburst prompted Assistant District Attorney Terri Domsky to go on the record before the judge denying Perry's allegations or any attempt to hinder her defense.

The jury deliberated about 13 hours since Tuesday after hearing four days of testimony. The jury found Perry guilty of six of nine counts, acquitted her of two and could not decide one count involving theft of utilities at Perry's home in the Northeast.

Suarez was found guilty of nine of the 16 charges against him.

Domsky said she would not retry Perry on the hung count.

El-Shabazz left the courtroom before Perry and did not comment. Suarez and his attorney, Brian J. McMonagle, declined comment on the verdict.

Domsky declined to comment on what sentence she will seek.

Trent, however, warned her that in making her recommendation she should understand that he believed "they have already suffered significantly in the loss of their careers."

The two officers were charged, and subsequently dismissed, in 2012 after a yearlong investigation of them for pocketing thousands of dollars by disconnecting or bypassing meters monitoring use of gas, electric and water at four properties, including Perry's Northeast home.

McMonagle and El-Shabazz argued that no one saw either actually doing the work needed to divert utilities services and that the evidence was solely circumstantial.

Domsky argued that only Perry and Suarez benefitted by bypassing utilities at their properties.

"It just so happened that a fairy went around" and altered the meters at those properties, Domsky said. "They got caught red-handed."

Suarez was an officer for 26 years and assigned to the Northwest-based 14th Police District when he was dismissed.

Perry, a 31-year-veteran, had a storied career that included a commendation for rescuing two people from a burning building in 1994 and a 1998 federal lawsuit contending that department officials retaliated against Perry, an African American woman, for reporting wrongdoing by white officers.

In 1999, a federal jury awarded Perry $42,000 in damages and the judge ordered the department to consider Perry for the next sergeant's vacancy.

At the time of her dismissal, Perry was assigned to the 39th Police District in North Philadelphia.

jslobodzian@phillynews.com

215-854-2985215-854-2985 @joeslobo

www.inquirer.com/crimeandpunishment

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