FOP prez: Investigate the Daily News!

Posted: July 18, 2014

JOHN McNESBY, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5, leveled disturbing allegations yesterday against longtime Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman.

In an afternoon news conference held at the FOP's Northeast Philadelphia headquarters, McNesby said the union has been provided with "credible information" from a confidential source alleging that the two reporters fabricated information and provided interview subjects with cash and gifts, while reporting their Pulitzer Prize-winning series "Tainted Justice" in 2009.

The series, based on interviews with dozens of victims, detailed allegations of misconduct among a group of undercover narcotics officers, including phony search-warrant applications, the looting of bodegas and sexual assault. The series triggered a federal investigation.

The U.S. Attorney's Office decided earlier this year not to press charges against the officers: Robert McDonnell Jr., Thomas Tolstoy, and brothers Jeffrey and Richard Cujdik.

After a separate Internal Affairs investigation, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey in May decided to fire Jeff Cujdik for allegedly giving gifts to an informant and then lying about it. Ramsey suspended the other three officers.

But McNesby said yesterday that all four cops had been "absolved entirely. The claims made by Laker and Ruderman simply did not hold up."

The union president said the two reporters had paid utility bills and provided diapers to sources who were quoted in the "Tainted Justice" series.

McNesby declined to identify his source, or say whether he had seen any evidence to support the allegations. But he criticized the Daily News and its parent company, which also owns the Inquirer and, for not looking into them.

"We do not know whether or not the claims made against the two are true," he said. "The only way to make that determination is to shine much-needed sunlight on the matter."

McNesby said the Daily News and Inquirer should investigate.

The news conference came a day after a blog post on the website first mentioned the allegations.

Ramsey, meanwhile, said the claims against Laker and Ruderman could affect the disciplinary action he took against the narcotics cops.

"It's of great concern to me, and I think it should be of great concern to anybody interested in fair and objective reporting," he said.

H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, owner and interim publisher of the Daily News and Inquirer, issued a statement that read:

"In a press conference yesterday, and in an earlier letter to his membership, Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby alleged that 'sound evidence' exists that Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman were unethical in their reporting of the Pulitzer Prize-winning series 'Tainted Justice.'

"These ethical lapses, he alleged, included buying diapers, food and paying utility bills for sources.

"Mr. McNesby also suggested that these allegations were being 'buried.' He called upon our newspapers to investigate them.

"Our company does not take allegations of unethical behavior lightly and I can assure Mr. McNesby that if such 'sound evidence' exists, we will pursue it.

"In the case of 'Tainted Justice,' the sound evidence of police misconduct consisted of interviews with dozens of victims of a rogue narcotics squad, each of whom, independent of the others, told the same stories of police abuse and theft.

"We stand behind the work of our reporters and have seen no 'sound evidence' that their work was anything but thorough, accurate and ethical."

On Twitter: @dgambacorta

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