Solitary confinement

Few people seemed as alone in the world Wednesday as Sean Alivera and Christopher Luciano even though their family and friends packed the courtroom in Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center.

Even Common Pleas Judge Lillian H. Ransom seemed impressed by the 40 people seated in pews behind the two former Philadelphia police officers, whom she was about to sentence to 10 to 15 years each in prison for their guilty pleas to working with a drug dealer to rob a man they believed to be a drug courier whose car was loaded with cash and pot.

“This is the work I do every day,” Ransom told Luciano. “I’d suggest to you that in the course of a year I might see two or three defendants who could have 20 people come to court and stand for them. Most people I see don’t have the comforts and the benefits that you have had. I don’t know what happened in your life to have brought you before the court today.”

Both men also seemed to realize – they apologized to their families -- that the weeping people who came to court to show their love and support also keenly felt the disappointment and humiliation of being there for two disgraced law enforcement officers.

Luciano’s attorney, Fortunato “Fred” Perri Jr., acknowledged that his client would probably spend the rest of his life explaining to his sons why he “tarnished his badge and the public trust and probably the best police department in the country by his activity.”

Police officials made it brutally clear how they felt. Deputy Police Commissioner Stephen Johnson and police Inspector Christine Coulter testified about how the ex-officers’ acts hurt the department’s reputation and seriously damaged the relationship between their former fellow 25th District officers and the tough North Philadelphia and Kensington neighborhoods they serve.

“People told us, ‘You’re no better than drug dealers,’ ” Coulter told the judge.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey wrote a letter asking the judge to sentence each to the maximum 67-year prison term. Ramsey’s letter noted the police ritual of retiring badges of officers slain on duty: “I will retire their badges and melt them down, not out of respect but disgust.”

Alivera, 31, and Luciano, 23, have been held in “protective custody” in the Philadelphia prisons – 22 hours in solitary confinement, two hours out for exercise -- since their arrest last October. At least in the short term, that is unlikely to change. As other disgraced officers have learned, regardless of which state prison Alivera and Luciano are sent, there is always the possibility of running into someone they busted or someone looking to earn prison “cred” by going after a cop.