Two veteran law enforcement officers are accused in a federal lawsuit of orchestrating the unconstitutional arrest of a Philadelphia man by coercing a witness to falsely accuse him of participating in an illegal 2015 gun transaction and by testifying in court in support of the arrest.

The officers, Special Agent Patrick Mangold of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and Philadelphia Police Officer Gregory Gillespie, are accused of lying in affidavits and during a preliminary hearing, resulting in the arrest of Ronald Byrd, against whom they held a grudge from previous run-ins, according to Center City attorney David Nenner, who filed the suit Monday on behalf of Byrd.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, alleges that Mangold received a search warrant on July 25, 2015, for a home in the 2200 block of Ontario Street in Port Richmond by swearing that a “credible and reliable source” told him a man named Nyeem Gordon had given a .40-caliber Glock handgun to a woman at the home named Melaine Barbour in exchange for a .38-caliber revolver.

When the search warrant was executed the next day, the lawsuit says, Mangold showed Barbour an Instagram photo of Byrd and threatened to arrest her if she did not identify Byrd as the man with whom she had made the gun swap. Under duress, the suit says, Barbour “signed a statement produced by defendant Mangold falsely implicating Mr. Byrd.”

In a warrant seeking Byrd’s arrest, Mangold wrote that the same “reliable and credible source” he cited in the search warrant told him that Byrd had exchanged guns with Barbour at the Ontario Street house on July 24, the day before the search warrant was issued and executed, the suit states.

Although the search warrant named Nyeem Gordon as the person who had exchanged guns with Barbour while the arrest warrant said it was Byrd, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged Byrd with three firearm crimes and one count of criminal conspiracy. Barbour was never prosecuted.

Byrd’s lawsuit names the state as a defendant because it did not terminate Mangold and “knowingly and recklessly” placed him in a supervisory role in an investigation knowing that he had “previously manufactured false evidence” in an unrelated case.

Also named as defendants are the City of Philadelphia, former state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, and former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. Kane and Williams are serving prison terms for unrelated offenses.

At Byrd’s preliminary hearing in November 2015 before Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden, Gillespie falsely testified that “he personally observed” Byrd enter and exit the Ontario Street house on the day of the illegal gun exchange, and Mangold also falsely testified that Byrd was a party to the gun exchange, the suit says.

Byrd was held for trial after the hearing on $750,000 bail that he could not pay, the suit says. But before he could be tried, the District Attorney’s Office dropped all charges on March 14, 2016.

No one has been charged in the July 24, 2015, murder of Rasheen Richardson, who police said was killed with the .40-caliber Glock that police confiscated from the Ontario Street house on July 25, 2015.

Byrd, 30, who is nearing the end of a 46-month federal prison sentence in an unrelated case, is seeking more than $250,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, claiming that the officers subjected him to false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and five other offenses.

Ben Waxman, spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said the case against Byrd “was withdrawn because further investigation found that the defendant had been misidentified.”

Andrew Richman, chief of staff for the city Law Department, which is representing Gillespie, declined to comment on the lawsuit, as did Joe Grace, spokesperson for the state Attorney General’s Office, which is representing Mangold.

Mangold and Gillespie have been sued before, court records show. In 2009, the City of Philadelphia settled for $25,000 a lawsuit brought by a man named Albert Moore who accused Gillespie — on the force since July 1996 — and two other police officers of subjecting him to false arrest and malicious prosecution.

Mangold, who was a Philadelphia police officer and detective from 1981 to 2012, was sued in federal court in 1998 and accused of writing a false confession statement attributing two Montgomery County bank robberies to James E. Stepp that he did not commit and to which he refused to confess.

Although Mangold was found not liable in the civil trial because the bogus statement was never used in court against Stepp, Judge Norma L. Shapiro called Mangold’s actions “reprehensible” in her ruling and said: “There is evidence of record that Mangold drafted a false confession to robberies for which Stepp had not confessed.”

Since 2012, Mangold has worked for the state Attorney General’s Office as a special agent assigned to the Gun Violence Task Force.

Ronald Byrd, 30, is suing the state and two police officers who falsely charged him with participating in an illegal gun exchange.
Family photo
Ronald Byrd, 30, is suing the state and two police officers who falsely charged him with participating in an illegal gun exchange.

Byrd’s lawsuit originally was filed in October in state court, but was withdrawn to be refiled in federal court because the city and Gillespie would have been immune from being sued in state court, Nenner said.