In the 15 months since he was arrested and charged with raping two prostitutes and holding them at gunpoint, former Philadelphia Police Officer Richard DeCoatsworth has maintained his innocence, pleaded guilty, withdrawn his guilty plea and once again says he wants to clear his name at trial.
So it’s no surprise that he’s in the process of rehiring defense lawyer L. George Parry, the lawyer he replaced with A. Charles Peruto Jr., who negotiated what even prosecutors called a “sweetheart” of a guilty plea agreement that the 28-year-old ex-hero cop soured on and rejected.
News of the switch-back – confirmed by Parry and Peruto – surfaced Friday during a pretrial hearing before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Ehrlich. The deal with Parry isn’t final yet and Ehrlich set a reality-check hearing for July 21 to be sure.
No one saw who stabbed Leocadio Del-Orbe 57 times as he sat in his black Toyota SUV sometime before 7 a.m. on a cold, snowy Jan. 3.
Except, that is, the person who killed the 60-year-old native of the Dominican Republic.
But prosecutors say the DNA in two drops of blood found outside the SUV are enough to link the crime to one man: Daniel Tejada, 54, who lived one house away from Del-Orbe in the 2400 block of North Howard Street in North Philadelphia and was related to Del-Orbe through marriage.
The frustration in lawyer Daine A. Grey Jr.’s voice was palpable.
He told Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner he tried calling, tried pleading, tried getting orders from judges but nothing was getting client Sean Benschop his name back.
Benschop, 43, was operating the excavator on June 5, 2013 when an unsupported four-story wall toppled on to the adjacent Salvation Army thrift store at 2136 Market St., killing six people and injuring 13. He’s in prison without bail, charged with six counts of third-degree murder and faces the probability – if convicted – of spending life in prison without parole.
Joseph A. Slobodzian
A second prostitute has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of Keith “King” Tolbert, 35, the former nursing student turned alleged pimp who is charged with felony murder in last August’s death of a “john” who died in a robbery attempt and whose body was dismembered and dropped in the Schuylkill.
Angel Weston, 22, pleaded guilty Wednesday before Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner to conspiracy and robbery resulting in serious bodily injury. Lerner set sentencing for Aug. 27 although that will likely be postponed until after Tolbert’s April 6 trial.
Weston’s guilty plea follows that of fellow prostitute Stephanie Foulke, 22, who pleaded guilty Nov. 25 to the same two charges. Even before she went before a judge, Foulke testified for the prosecution at Tolbert’s Nov. 6 preliminary hearing, describing in detail the macabre Aug. 26 death and dismemberment of Francis Zarzycki.
Joseph A. Slobodzian
The oft-delayed retrial of Rev. James J. Brennan for allegedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy has been delayed once again – this time by Traffic Court.
No, Father Brennan did not run afoul of the law while driving. His lawyer, William J. Brennan Jr., however, remains tied up in federal court defending former Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary in the ticket-fixing trial of six former Traffic Court judges and a Philadelphia businessman.
On Monday, which was supposed to be the start of jury selection in Brennan’s retrial, the priest sat alone in the rear of the courtroom waiting to get a subpoena for a new court date while the staff of Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Edward C. Wright communicated with his lawyer by phone during a break in the federal trial.
Four more Philadelphians who repeatedly dodged jury duty found themselves before a judge Wednesday: one voluntarily and three after getting an early morning escort by court warrant officers who arrested them.
According to Philadelphia Jury Commissioner Daniel A. Rendine, all four people were among those subpoenaed to appear in the city’s new Juror Scofflaw Court on May 21. None showed up and bench warrants were issued for their arrest.
Rendine said one of the four surrendered last week and spent the day in jail before returning Wednesday to plead guilty before Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart, who added a $50 fine. The other three pleaded guilty and were fined $100 before being led to a cell for the rest of the day.
It looks as if Anthony Nicodemo’s retrial in the alleged Dec. 12, 2012 slaying of Gino DiPietro won’t be happening until early next year.
At a status conference last Thursday, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart scheduled a new pretrial conference for Dec. 1 but the retrial – Nicodemo’s first trial ended May 20 in a mistrial amid rumors someone approached a juror – did not get a firm date. The trial had already lost two alternate jurors because of exposure to pretrial publicity when juror number eight was dismissed, bringing the panel down to 11. Although a criminal trial may continue with 11 jurors, both sides must agree and, in the case of the 42-year-old reputed mob soldier, they didn’t.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Zarallo said there is an ongoing investigation into possible jury tampering although no one has been charged.
The son of West Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell didn’t look far to find a lawyer after his arrest last week in the alleged burglary of a neighbor's house in which he was shot and seriously wounded.
Center City criminal defense lawyer Jack McMahon, who represented Kermit Gosnell in last year’s murder trial in the slayings of infants born alive during illegal late-term abortions, on Wednesday entered his appearance as attorney for Barron Alexander, 22.
McMahon could not be reached for comment but in the past has sympathized with the plight of the children of the notorious owner of the Women’s Medical Society clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave. Barron Alexander Gosnell legally dropped his surname last year after he complained that the Gosnell name was preventing him from getting internships and possible jobs while studying at Cheyney University.