Philly detective fired as police, feds probe conduct

A veteran Philadelphia homicide detective has been suspended with intent to dismiss as federal and local authorities investigate whether he committed any crimes while developing relationships with witnesses and informants, according to police.

Detective Philip Nordo was removed from investigative duty this year over allegations that he improperly paid a key witness in one of his cases. Capt. Sekou Kinebrew, a police spokesman, said Wednesday that a criminal investigation into those allegations was ongoing and that Philadelphia police and federal investigators also were looking at other relationships Nordo developed while on the force. Kinebrew declined to elaborate.

Nordo was suspended Friday and will officially lose his job next month for departmental violations including “knowingly and intentionally associating, fraternizing, or socializing” with people connected to criminal conduct, Kinebrew said.

Attempts to reach Nordo for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful. John McNesby, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, did not respond to requests for comment.

Nordo, who joined the Police Department in 1997, was known as a productive homicide detective and was assigned to a task force that often handled difficult cases. One investigation he headed, of accused killer Darnell Powell, has led to a trial scheduled for Sept. 5 — but it also may have precipitated Nordo’s downfall.

In April, Powell’s defense attorney, Robert Gamburg, said he found records showing that Nordo made $400 worth of deposits into the prison account of a key witness, Rhaheem Friend, between June 2015 and January 2017, which Gamburg said had not been disclosed to prosecutors or to him.

Gamburg also obtained recordings of phone conversations between Nordo and Friend, who was expected to testify against Powell, and said the conversations — wide-ranging discussions about topics including football, money, and Friend’s incarceration — were further evidence that Nordo’s conduct “tainted the entire investigation.”

Jules Epstein, a professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law who is not involved in the case, said in April that the payments and phone calls did not appear to constitute criminal conduct, but that failing to disclose the payments almost certainly violated evidentiary rules. At a minimum, Gamburg likely would be able to raise such conduct at trial in an attempt to tarnish the investigation’s credibility. Gamburg has said prosecutors should dismiss the charges.

Cameron Kline, spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors were preparing for Powell’s trial. He declined to comment further.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to say whether the agency was investigating Nordo.