Falsified evidence, lies
Philadelphia cops’ frame-ups under fire
Published Feb 19, 2009 8:45 PM
Hundreds of Philadelphia drug convictions could be overturned, and pending
cases dropped, because of police falsification of evidence against people they
accused of dealing drugs.
Narcotics Officer Jeffrey Cujdik has been put on desk duty and relieved of his
service pistol, pending further investigations by the FBI, the district
attorney and police department Internal Affairs. “The investigation
includes everyone who made an arrest with Cujdik and any other informant who
worked with him,” one official said. (Philadelphia Daily News, Feb. 9) At
least six other police-paid informants worked with Cujdik.
Cujdik is accused of ordering longtime informant Ventura Martinez to falsify
evidence in order to build cases against people Cujdik targeted. The illegal
practice came to light in a Philadelphia Daily News story in which Martinez
said Cujdik sometimes ordered him to buy drugs elsewhere when he was unable to
make a buy from an alleged drug house. Cujdik then lied in search-warrant
applications, saying he had witnessed Martinez purchase the drugs from the
Five years of cases in question
Police began using Martinez as an informant as far back as 2003, paying him
$150 to $200 for each drug or gun case he helped develop. It’s a
long-standing and questionable police department practice to pay confidential
informants to make drug buys and give tips leading to drug and gun arrests.
A 12-year veteran, Cujdik has been one of the busiest narcotics cops on the
force. In 2007, according to city payrolls, he made nearly $50,000 in overtime,
much of it from court appearances, on top of his $55,389 yearly salary.
Martinez also claims he gave Cujdik more than $20,000 in informant cash to rent
a house that Cujdik owned.
The scandal came to light when defense attorney Stephen P. Patrizio became
suspicious of similarities with other search warrants involving
“Confidential Informant Number 103” (Martinez) and Cujdik. During
his investigation, Patrizio had a photograph taken of the informant leaving a
house owned by Cujdik. It turned out that Martinez and his family rented the
house from Cujdik from September 2005 to January 2009. The lease agreement
violated police rules that require cops to keep an arms-length relationship
Once Informant No. 103’s name and address were released in court,
Martinez contacted the press, Internal Affairs and the FBI in an effort to
qualify for the witness protection program. FBI agent Janice Fedarcyk said,
“It would be premature to outline exactly what our steps are going to
be,” and Martinez, scared for his life, said the protection program has
not been offered to him yet. (Philadelphia Daily News, Feb. 14)
From juvenile court to death row
The use of false testimony from witnesses and informants, in addition to the
practice of preying on drug suspects, stealing their money and covering up
police crimes with false arrests and search warrants, led to the arrests of
five cops in the 39th Police District scandal in 1995. The city of Philadelphia
had to release almost 500 prisoners and subsequently paid $4 million to settle
civil rights lawsuits because of improper police conduct.
One hundred and twenty miles away in Luzerne County, juveniles with minor
offences were improperly sentenced, often without access to defense attorneys,
to serve time in privately run detention centers, so that two Pennsylvania
judges could receive kickbacks for keeping the center full and more
Defense lawyers and supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal have long charged that false
testimony from coerced witnesses and other police misconduct led to his
conviction for the death of police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. Abu-Jamal
still sits on death row awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue of
racism during his jury selection, while a worldwide movement of supporters
continues to argue for his innocence.
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