Philly officer gets break on perjury charge, agrees not to return to force

Hulmes
Christopher Hulmes

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office has agreed to allow a veteran narcotics officer who admitted perjuring himself in testimony to enter a pretrial diversion program for first offenders after he promised never to try to rejoin the force.

Prosecutors on Tuesday confirmed that the unusual agreement with former Officer Christopher Hulmes was motivated in part because recent acquittals of some officers accused of misconduct had enabled them to regain their jobs and get back pay.

"As recent events in federal District Court have shown, trials of police officers carry uncertain results," said Cameron Kline, spokesman for District Attorney Seth Williams. "In the event of an acquittal, the city is forced not only to reinstate the officers, but to award back pay. That result will not occur here."

Kline declined to comment further.

His statement refers to the May 2015 acquittals of six city narcotics officers - Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, and John Speiser - after a federal corruption trial.

A seventh narcotics officer, Jeffrey Walker, pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and testified against his six former colleagues at trial. Walker was sentenced to 31/2 years in prison by a federal judge who credited his cooperation with prosecutors.

All six acquitted officers regained their jobs - Spicer later was promoted to sergeant - although Betts was fired last August after testing positive for marijuana.

The agreement to let Hulmes enter what is known as ARD - Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition - became public Thursday in court records, although the terms were not disclosed.

Hulmes, 44, is scheduled to appear in court June 17 for the agreement to be formally approved by Common Pleas Court Judge Scott DiClaudio.

Under ARD, first offenders fulfill the terms of their admission. After a year, they can apply to have their criminal record expunged.

Hulmes' lawyer, Brian J. McMonagle, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Hulmes, a 19-year veteran of the Police Department - 13 of them on the Narcotics Strike Force - attracted attention in 2011 when he admitted in court that he had falsified information in a drug arrest to protect a confidential informant's identity.

The judge labeled Hulmes a liar and tossed the evidence seized from an alleged drug dealer, destroying the prosecution's case.

Still, Hulmes was used as a witness by the District Attorney's Office for two more years, although the Police Department had removed him from street duty because of a pending Internal Affairs probe and the city had paid $150,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit against him.

That arrangement ended in May 2015 when Hulmes was arrested and charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, and related counts for allegedly falsifying paperwork used to justify drug arrests. That case resulted in the ARD offer.

The news surprised defense lawyers who have challenged cases in which Hulmes' evidence was crucial to the prosecution.

"He's a self-admitted perjurer," said assistant public defender Bradley Bridge, whose office is reviewing drug cases involving alleged police corruption. "His crime goes to the heart of the criminal justice system."

Bridge said he had filed to reopen the cases of 550 people convicted in cases involving Hulmes.

Bridge called the decision to grant Hulmes ARD "complicated." He said it was correct for Hulmes because he is a first offender, but problematic because he was a law enforcement officer who violated his oath to truthfully testify.

"I've never heard of that type of sentence for a police officer who admitted perjury," said lawyer Christopher J. Evarts. "He broke every rule in the book."

Evarts represents Gilbert Narvaez, who alleged that Hulmes performed a cavity strip search on him in an open parking lot.

Evarts called Narvaez's strip search a "digital rape" performed in front of numerous other officers. Police regulations say cavity searches are supposed to be conducted in private by qualified personnel.

jslobodzian@phillynews.com

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