Former detective arrested for rape of witnesses, suspects

Philip Nordo (Image: Philadelphia Police Department)

Former Philadelphia homicide detective Philip Nordo has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting witnesses and suspects associated with crimes.

In a case that casts a dark shadow over the Philadelphia Police Department, Nordo was arrested Tuesday and charged with 24 counts of criminal misconduct, including rape, stalking and indecent assault.

According to a 35-page grand jury presentment, Nordo “used his power and position to coerce and intimidate his potential victims.”

“He cultivated relationships male suspects witnesses, or individuals who may or may not have been related to an investigation,” the presentment states. “Nordo cultivated these relationships by grooming the individuals, engaging in conduct to make the targets of his advances more susceptible to his sexually assaultive and/or coercive behavior. He also used intimidation and manipulation to keep his victims from coming forward.”

Nordo had a long career in local enforcement, . After becoming a police officer in 1997, Nordo later became a detective in 2002 and joined the Homicide Unit in 2009. 

One incident described in the presentment allegedly happened in April 2005 in the Philadelphia Police Department’s East Detective Division, where a defendant told officers Nordo had sexually assaulted them.

In the process of obtaining a signed confession from the defendant, whose identity was redacted in the public copy of the presentment, Nordo also allegedly kissed the man and forced him to masturbate in an interrogation room.

After the man told other officers about the incident, Internal Affairs and a Crime Scene Unit investigated and did find the man’s semen in the interrogation room, according to the presentment. (The individual in this incident was the victim of an unsolved murder in 2015).

Nordo now faces 24 counts on charges inlcuding rape and sexual assault for thie above and an undisclosed number of other incidents, which the presentment stated occurred in interrogation rooms, official visiting rooms at prisons, and with other people he met while working as a police officer.

The presentment further states that Nordo allegedly bribed his victims, falsified paperwork to give victims up to $20,000 from the Mayor’s Office Crime Reward Program, asking victims to refer other “homosexual inmates” to him, and used coercion, threats and his power as a police detective to force victims to obey him.

Details were scant in the heavily-redacted presentment. Krasner said additional allegations against Nordo were redacted to protect the privacy of the people involved. “One of our concerns in a case like this is to make sure that we protect the safety and privacy of individuals who have been victimized,” Krasner said. “When you have a situation where there are shocking allegations, sometimes it emboldens people who have also been victimized to come forward.​”

Nordo was fired in 2017 for departmental violations that reportedly included “fraternizing” with people conducted to criminal incidents, not long after reports emerged that he had been giving payments to a witness in another criminal matter.

Philly police said that Nordo had previously been cleared by Internal Affairs investigation undertaken after the 2005 incident. 

Krasner declined to comment on how much of the allegations against Nordo was previously known by previous Philly DAs. Under ex-DA Seth Williams, Nordo’s name appeared on a controversial secret list of 29 officers the office would not call to testify in court, information that was never disclosed to defense attorneys in cases involving those officers until the Defenders Association of Philadelphia won a motion in 2018 forcing the publication of the list. 

“At this point we are not commenting beyond providing the presentment,” Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner said. “Our position is that he should be held on bail.”

But Krasner did slam the Philly DA’s office under his predecessors for not making information about Nordo public in the cases he was involved in.

“I’m always shocked when a prosecutor’s office lose track of its Brady obligation to provide information to the defense so that they have their clients’ constitutional obligations met,” said Krasner, referring to the Brady requirement that prosecutors turn over all exculpatory evidence to defense counsel. “Prosecutors should turn over the information they have even if that information means that the defense has more to work with. It’s called Brady, it’s in our U.S. Constitution, it should be done always and it should have been done in Philadelphia for decades.”

Nordo, 52, of the 15000 block of Kallaste Drive, was arrested early Tuesday and reportedly entered a not guilty plea on Tuesday afternoon. He was denied bail and is currently being held in custody at Northampton County Jail in Easton, Pa., according to court documents, pending his next scheduled hearing on March 29.

Additional reporting by Sam Newhouse

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