The Price of Perjury: The story of one lying cop in Philly's Wild West drug war
Police Officer Christopher Hulmes, a longtime member of the Narcotics Strike Force, admitted in open court to committing perjury. City Paper examines what he intended to cover up, and why it took the District Attorney more than three years to file charges against the officer.
Last Thursday, District Attorney Seth Williams announced that Philadelphia Police Officer Christopher Hulmes, a narcotics cop who admitted in open court to lying under oath, had been charged with perjury and other offenses.
It only took more than three years.
During that lapse, Hulmes continued to patrol the city's bustling drug markets and to testify in criminal trials that likely sent many defendants to prison. Some of those convictions could end up being overturned and costing the city in civil settlements.
That Hulmes admitted in 2011 to lying multiple times in a drug-and-gun case is without question. But precisely what he intended to cover up, and why it took an August 2014 City Paper investigation to prompt prosecutors to file charges, is much more complicated.
The alleged discovery of crack cocaine and a gun on a Kensington street, and its slow journey into the public spotlight, offers a glimpse into allegations of cops' abusive and unauthorized relationships with confidential informants, witness intimidation, disappearing video and audio tape, a rubber-stamp parole board, police theft, prosecutorial misconduct, wrongful imprisonment, illegal searches and the planting of evidence.
The charges filed against Officer Hulmes are only the most recent scandal to emerge from Philadelphia's Wild West drug war. Currently, six other narcotics officers are standing trial in federal court, accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from suspected drug dealers and brutally abusing them.
Hulmes, a longtime member of the department's Narcotics Strike Force, in December 2011 admitted under questioning from defense lawyer Guy Sciolla that he lied in search warrant applications, and later in a preliminary hearing, in the case of Arthur Rowland, now 34, and his half-brother, Paul Ricks, 31. Even so, Hulmes insisted that police did find drugs and a gun in Rowland's silver GMC — 26 packets of crack, and a .40 Glock handgun fitted with a laser sight and loaded with nine rounds — after detaining the two on May 7, 2010.
Hulmes lied about various details, he said, to protect the identity of Joshua Torres, a reputed Kensington drug dealer whom he described as a confidential source. Hulmes' partner, Officer Patrick Banning, signed two allegedly perjured search warrant applications, which — among other apparent lies — falsified the timing of a suspected drug transaction. Hulmes took responsibility for writing the warrant applications, which is perhaps one reason why Banning wasn't charged.
"I changed it," Hulmes testified, without explaining how the lie would protect Torres. "I told you, I concealed Mr. Tores's [his name is misspelled in some court documents] identity. ... I changed the times because I did not want him hurt or harmed in any way."
Rowland and Ricks did have criminal records. Rowland's include charges stemming from 1999 and 2000 arrests for drug dealing, robbery, carjacking, aggravated assault and illegal gun possession, to which he pleaded guilty. Ricks was convicted of charges that included robbery, theft, simple assault, criminal conspiracy and drug possession stemming from arrests in 2001, 2003 and 2004. But neither had faced arrest for years at the time they encountered Hulmes, says their attorney, Sciolla, and both deny there was a gun or crack in the vehicle.
"Somebody's lying," says Sciolla in an interview in his Center City office. "And you got a cop who's already admitted that he lied about what happened on Thayer Street," the block where Hulmes claimed to have witnessed Rowland handing off drugs.
But Rowland, a Black man with multiple tattoos and a criminal record, fit the profile: His word was worthless against that of a police officer in the city's busy and grinding drug war.
"I finally got my life on [track]. I felt like I was being successful," says Rowland, who had just had a daughter, and was enrolled at Alvernia University. "I still owe them money for going delinquent cause I couldn't put my loans in deferment."
Rowland hasn't been back to school yet and now works as a barber. He sees a sort of grim humor in the ordeal. "When you can say, 'Oh my God, like, they put drugs in my car,' " even friends and fellow prisoners doubted him, he says during an interview, reaching to touch my knee to emphasize a point he finds particularly surreal or outrageous. "Do you understand what this did to my family and my life? ... It crushed me. I have never been the same [because the ordeal] put me in a dark place emotionally."
If he had been convicted, Rowland could have been sent to prison for more than 20 years for a crime he did not commit (in addition to parole back time he would have to serve), says Sciolla. But Hulmes' admission of perjury wrecked the prosecution. In January 2012, Common Pleas Court Judge James Murray Lynn ordered the evidence to be suppressed, or thrown out; this forced the DA to drop charges against Rowland. (Charges against Ricks, who was riding shotgun, didn't make it past the preliminary hearing.) At this point, Rowland had already been incarcerated for 19 months. Because his arrest was deemed a parole violation, he actually spent 28 months behind bars before he was finally set free.
"The police officer forthrightly testified to the Court that he lied consistently throughout to the [warrant] issuing magistrate and that he lied at the preliminary hearing and that he lied to his K-9 officer, all because he was trying to protect the identity of the confidential source," said Judge Lynn, excoriating Officer Hulmes for lying under oath, and the DA for putting him on the stand. "You cannot put an officer on the witness stand who is going to say I lied to an issuing magistrate; you cannot do that."
Hulmes' lawyer, Brian J. McMonagle, says that his client is being punished for protecting a source from harm.
"Chris made misrepresentations in an effort to protect a man's life. And the decision to do that cost him his career," McMonagle says.
McMonagle did not respond to requests to address specific facts of the case. Those facts suggest that Hulmes may have lied to cover up illegal searches of Rowland's vehicle and create a false pretext for the arrests. Motives aside, the DA's failure to prosecute him in a timely manner or disclose the perjury to defense attorneys, and instead put him on the stand, deprived an unknown number of defendants a fair trial.
"It is of little solace to my client, Arthur Rowland, that a man who was responsible for taking 28 months of a man's life and freedom has now surrendered to answer for the lies and falsehoods" that put him behind bars, says Sciolla. "The question all of us must ask is, why has it taken over three-plus years from the day that the lies were admitted ... for an arrest to take place?"
Some lawyers, including prosecutors, had known about the case since at least December 2011. But it was not widely publicized until August 2014, when City Paper published an investigation into the admitted perjury. After publication, the Police Department quickly took Hulmes and Banning off the street, and initiated an investigation. But the DA continued to call them as witnesses in the months that followed, insisting they were credible, despite defense lawyers' objections. Prosecutors were, however, clearly eager to keep the two officers from testifying, letting many defendants charged with felonies plead to misdemeanor charges or dismissing the charges altogether.
"While I am thrilled that Officer Hulmes is finally being held accountable for the crime he committed, I am still deeply troubled that the District Attorney's Office publicly stood by Officer Hulmes and continued to call him as a witness while simultaneously investigating him for this crime he has now been charged with," Annie Fisher, Eastern Division chief at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, wrote in an email to City Paper last week.
It's unclear whether Banning will be internally disciplined. The Police Department, which has not made anyone available for an interview about the case, says that the investigation is ongoing and that Banning remains on desk duty. Through his lawyer, Fortunato N. Perri Jr., Banning declined to comment. It is also unclear who in the Police Department knew about Hulmes' admitted perjury, and whether Internal Affairs had previously investigated and took no action.
After City Paper's story was published, the DA did hand defense lawyers a thick packet of discovery materials on Hulmes' admitted lies, comprising testimony from Rowland's case and related Internal Affairs investigations. But that was information that they had likely been required, under what is known as the Brady Rule, to reveal since Hulmes admitted to lying — in December 2011.
Along with perjury, Hulmes has been charged with false swearing, unsworn falsifications to authorities, false reports to law enforcement authorities, tampering with public records and information and obstructing administration of law or other governmental function. Perjury is a felony, which First Assistant District Attorney Ed McCann says is punishable by up to seven years in prison. But because Hulmes does not have a prior record, says McCann, sentencing guidelines would call for non-confinement. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced that Hulmes has been suspended with intent to fire.
Hulmes and Banning's initial account described an unremarkable drug bust in the thriving street drug markets common among Kensington's modest row homes and abandoned factories. Some buildings on the neighborhood's edges are being gentrified. But throughout much of the deeply impoverished area, dealers, mostly Puerto Rican men, sell heroin and cocaine to a multicultural cornucopia of urban and suburban drug users who arrive by car, foot and train to satisfy their habits in the shadows of Philadelphia's industrial collapse.
As anthropologist Philippe Bourgois has written, the city's drug markets have, for some on the margins, "become the only accessible 'equal opportunity employer.'" The challenges of the new American economy couldn't be more stark. But the most high-profile government response is policing.
The corner of H and Thayer is typical of that reality.
"I bought heroin and crack at H and Thayer," Hulmes testified. "I have assisted in the arrest of dealers at H and Thayer. It's a known location for drug sales, a heavy known location for drug sales."
Judging from my recent visit to the corner, that is likely true. But Hulmes later said that much of his initial account, which follows below, was a lie.
At about 8:30 p.m. on May 7, 2010, Hulmes and Banning said they received information that a Black male driving a silver GMC was supplying drugs to the corner of H and Thayer streets. Hulmes then observed Arthur Rowland, sitting in a heavily tinted silver vehicle next to a Black male passenger, speaking to alleged corner dealer Joshua Torres; Rowland allegedly passed a blue object to an unidentified Hispanic man. Hulmes later stated that it looked like either heroin or crack.
The men then left, Rowland and Ricks in their vehicle and Torres in another, but Hulmes and Banning did not call for backup officers to stop them. Instead, Hulmes said they tailed the two vehicles, losing Rowland but following Torres' white van to the 2900 block of Frankford Avenue, about one mile away.
Police watched as Rowland then allegedly arrived, calling out to Torres, who was, oddly, standing outside near his apartment, counting money — Hulmes later said it was about $1,500, and that he had instructed Torres to brazenly display it.
Just then, 24th District police working on an unrelated matter allegedly pulled up and chased two men down Frankford Avenue. Hulmes' surveillance was blown, and Hulmes said he called backup officers to detain Torres and Rowland. They found Ricks inside the vehicle.
Hulmes said he saw a clear plastic bag containing 26 blue-tinted packets of crack cocaine in plain sight, between the driver's seat and console of Rowland's vehicle. Hulmes had also received information about a secret compartment, he said, and used a flashlight to peer into vents near the front seat. He said he spied the grips of a handgun and bundled up cash hidden inside.
Police drove Rowland's vehicle to a nearby parking lot at Trenton and Lehigh avenues, a "staging area," Hulmes said, to "avoid neighbors interfering with the police investigation."
But things looked different from the curb, where Rowland and Ricks sat handcuffed. Ricks was scared. He had no idea why they were being detained so long, and why police had driven the vehicle away.
"I've never seen a routine stop take two hours," says Ricks. "I'm like, we're about to die. What's going on? I know we ain't got nothin' on us."
Rowland gives this account of what happened: He says as he approached Torres' door, he saw police stopping people a few feet away from him on the street, and Torres walking away into his home. Rowland says he knocked on Torres' door and called his phone, to no avail. He was there not to sell drugs but rather to pick up money on behalf of his sister, who had sold Torres the white van.
"She keep pestering me about the damn car," Rowland says. "For a birthday present, I had just came back from Puerto Rico. Just came back from Puerto Rico. Like just got back. And I'm back doing what? I only been back a day. One day. I was exhausted. He was like, 'Yeah, I got the money, you want it tomorrow or today?' I said, 'It's up to you.'
"So I turned around going towards my car — cops swarm in on me," says Rowland. Those cops were narcotics Officers Derrick Jones and Kim Watts — the same officers who Rowland says were detaining people as he arrived. This seems to contradict Hulmes' story about 24th District officers jumping out and blowing up their surveillance.
After being detained on Frankford Avenue, Rowland and Ricks were taken to Hulmes' "staging area" at Trenton and Lehigh avenues. Rowland says police were searching his vehicle again.
"When we're pulling up, I see them with all my doors open, and the hood, and they tearing my car up," says Rowland. "I'm like, 'Yo, is this legal?'"
At about 10 p.m., K-9 Officer John Snyder and his dog, Leo, arrived, Hulmes stated, walked around the vehicle, hopped inside and indicated that something might be hidden. This search might have been illegal, and Hulmes testified evasively about how the dog ended up inside the car.
"Officer Snyder asked me if I was going to do a warrant on the car. ... I just know I told him we're definitely getting a warrant on the car."
And then, "I believe either I opened it or we opened the door so the dog went inside of that vehicle and hit on the front seat area."
Officer Snyder flatly contradicted Hulmes. "I was told that I had consent" to put the dog into the vehicle, Snyder testified.
Hulmes and Banning later obtained a warrant to search the vehicle, and police allegedly recovered a gun. They also got a warrant for Rowland's parents' home in Northeast Philadelphia. Nothing illegal was found.
"I'm there for like an hour in that parking lot," recalls Rowland. "So this is like, how do you search my car over there, come over here, search my car, and then call a dog? If you already found drugs, in plain view? Don't need a dog."
The officers' story began to unravel after Torres, Ricks, and Rowland's mother, Debra Ingalls, complained to Internal Affairs. Ricks told investigators that police planted drugs: Banning, he reported, walked up in the parking lot, was holding something and said, "Bingo, book both of them."
Internal Affairs claimed there was not enough evidence to determine whether Hulmes had lied about finding crack cocaine in Rowland's vehicle when the men were first detained on Frankford Avenue.
But key evidence may have been destroyed. Rowland, while handcuffed on the curb, says he spotted surveillance cameras on the facade of the laundromat below Torres' apartment.
"My whole plan was get those cameras. We're going to show everything's a lie," says Rowland.
An Internal Affairs investigator stated that a laundromat employee reported that none of the cameras were "operational." But Rowland hired a private detective, he says, who reported that police had taken the tapes.
"There were tapes," says Sciolla. The laundromat owner "said that the cops had come in and took the tape out of there. He was scared. He wouldn't come. Wouldn't testify."
I was unable to locate that owner. A woman working at the laundromat, speaking in Chinese to an interpreter, said that it was under new management.
Hulmes had initially told Internal Affairs that they were on Frankford Avenue "maybe 10 to 15 minutes," and that they had not searched the vehicle. But Ricks told Internal Affairs that police searched the vehicle for between 45 minutes and one hour on the block, an account echoed at trial by a witness (who knew Rowland), who testified that he saw two or three officers searching the inside of the vehicle there for about 40 or 45 minutes.
Hulmes ultimately stated that the crack allegedly found in plain view was only visible to him after he got into Rowland's vehicle — another possible illegal search.
Internal Affairs did find that Hulmes and Banning's methods violated department rules. For one, moving Rowland's vehicle from the street to a parking lot suggested the possibility of an illegal search. Investigators also determined that Torres was the officers' informant. But they had failed to register Torres, or any confidential informant, with the Police Department as required.
Hulmes punishment, according to police, was a written reprimand.
Hulmes repeatedly said that his lying was necessary to protect Torres' well-being. But Torres told Internal Affairs investigators that Hulmes and Banning used threats and violence to pressure him into providing information — and that they robbed him.
Torres alleged that the officers stopped him as he tried to drive away one day, and found a blunt of marijuana in his van. They allegedly went through his cell phone contacts — and put him in a police car and drove him around. Such treatment is standard punishment for wayward informants, says Sciolla.
"They put you in a car. They drive you in all the neighborhoods where you are active, or where you've been giving information about people who had suspicions — and now all of a sudden you're sitting in a police car driving around," he says.
The officers, Torres alleged, made an unsavory proposal: Torres was out on bail and a favor, they said, would be required to keep him out. Torres told investigators that he finally gave up two names — but not Rowland or Ricks. Hulmes allegedly accompanied Torres home and asked him for guns and drugs — "something to help him out" — a possible request for illegal items that could be planted on suspects.
Hulmes also allegedly threatened a woman whom Internal Affairs described as Torres' wife.
"If you get your fucking man to do what we want him to do, you won't be going through no more problems," Hulmes allegedly told her, according to Internal Affairs' account of Torres' complaint. (I have been unable to locate her.)
Torres said that Rowland was not there to sell drugs, but rather was swinging by to pick up a payment for the van Torres had purchased, and Torres had walked downstairs to meet him. That was where he encountered Officer Banning, who was pointing a gun at him, Torres said.
"You want to play tricks with us," Banning allegedly said, smacking Torres, calling him a liar and dragging him from the home. Apparently, the cops hadn't gotten much from the tip he had provided. "You want to fuck around with us? We can make things happen."
Outside, on Frankford Avenue, Torres saw Rowland and Ricks on the ground with police on top of them.
After police drove Torres to the parking lot, he said, Banning strip-searched him and got mean. "We have your contacts," Banning allegedly said, holding Torres' cell phone. "We went through your phone. We already called your contacts. We already know what is going on. You want to fuck with us and lie to us."
Torres said that Banning then patted him on the back and released him in view of Rowland and Ricks, apparently to indicate that he was a snitch.
Hulmes has claimed that he wanted to "protect a confidential informant who they subsequently caused to be outed and ultimately put in jeopardy," says Sciolla. "So here's a guy you're trying to protect and now all of a sudden the spigot gets turned off so, 'Fuck him.' So now we'll just out him, we'll let the whole world know that he was my CI? How do you do that?"
In a 2013 deposition, Hulmes admitted that Torres supplied information that day under intense pressure.
"We sort of indicated that he was going to be arrested," Hulmes said. "We lied to him."
While Hulmes told Internal Affairs that he never entered Torres' home, by 2013 he couldn't "recall" whether he had done so. "I don't think I went in there."
Under questioning by Sciolla at a December 2011 hearing on Rowland's motion to suppress evidence, Hulmes quickly admitted to making a false statement. And then another.
Hulmes' new account was radically different from that which he had previously offered. Hulmes now said that the officers had witnessed the apparent drug transaction at H and Thayer Streets not around 8:50 p.m, but closer to 5:30. This lie would seemingly not have protected Torres: If Rowland had actually met Torres at H and Thayer, Rowland would have known when the meeting had taken place.
Hulmes also acknowledged that he could not see who was driving the vehicle at H and Thayer, or even whether there was a passenger.
"Never was no H and Thayer," says Rowland, still frustrated. "They put H and Thayer in there to try to create a probable cause. But, you see, it get all chewed up in the paperwork like, 'Oh, I never seen him at H and Thayer, I made that up to protect my source.' It never was none of that stuff!"
Rowland says that Hulmes couldn't even get the most basic detail right: He says he was driving a Chevy Trailblazer, not a GMC.
Stranger yet, Hulmes now said that he had not followed Torres from H and Thayer to Frankford Avenue, but rather followed Torres' van in a short loop around the block, after which Torres started to freak out, pleading for the officers to take him away.
"I will give you my guy right now," Torres allegedly said. "Just get me and the van out of here. Just get me out of here."
Hulmes claimed that police took Torres and drove him a few blocks away to Harrowgate Plaza, a tattered strip mall set back against a vast parking lot. Hulmes said that he drove Torres' van. The revised account Hulmes offered in December 2011 made less sense than the original.
Hulmes stated that police spent 90 minutes with Torres as he made calls to Rowland to arrange a drug deal, and then apparently another hour and a half or so driving around fruitlessly looking for Rowland until he finally agreed to meet on Frankford Avenue, in front of Torres' home. Torres, in yet another bizarre detail, allegedly called his mother, who met them and drove the van back home, where the sting took place.
Torres said his ordeal continued a few days after the arrests, when Banning, Hulmes and Watts arrived at his home, Torres told Internal Affairs, ransacked it and demanded to know where he was hiding drugs. "What do you think we are going to forget about you?" an officer allegedly asked.
Torres told investigators that more than $700 was stolen from his home, "money they had been saving for the car." Ricks also accused police of stealing about $400 from him; Rowland, through his mother, reported to Internal Affairs that $2,500 and a wedding ring had gone missing from his parents' home.
Torres was fighting back against his powerful handlers, not only complaining to Internal Affairs, but also, says Sciolla, prepared to testify against the officers in court. For weeks, Torres had shown up at Philadelphia's Criminal Justice Center, he says, as Rowland's hearing was scheduled and rescheduled. But after November 2, 2011, Torres arrived in handcuffs: Officers had arrested him, Hulmes said, allegedly for dealing drugs. Banning was present.
"Police Officer Banning spoke with Joshua Tores during his arrest," Hulmes testified. "He was very detailed in what he said. ... Police Officer Banning informed me that he stopped him, and everything that Joshua Tores stated was wrong, that Ricks [threatened Torres and] made him say it."
Torres may have been a drug dealer. But this arrest seemed like pure retaliation, and coercion: A police officer was involved in the arrest of a man who had recently made an Internal Affairs complaint against him, and who was reportedly prepared to testify against him in court. It appeared to be Hulmes and Banning, and not Rowland and Ricks, whom Torres truly feared.
Rowland says police then attempted to orchestrate a confrontation between himself and Torres, putting the two in the same holding cells and together on van rides on their way to court. They hoped, Sciolla says, to provoke a fight that would justify Hulmes' contention that Rowland and Ricks posed a danger.
"He underestimated Torres' willingness to tell the truth," says Sciolla. "They thought they [could] threaten him, intimidate him and coerce him into coming to their side. And Torres didn't bite."
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brady v. Maryland that prosecutors must provide defense attorneys with potentially exculpatory evidence in their possession. The Brady rule is in theory a powerful tool to ensure that judges and juries arrive at a just verdict. But it relies mostly on prosecutors abiding by the honor system and thus has proven very difficult to enforce. High-profile cases of prosecutorial misconduct are legion, but rarely punished.
Evidence that a police officer has lied is quintessential Brady material: Defense lawyers can use it to impeach, or question the credibility of, an officer's testimony in court. But DA Williams' office failed to turn over evidence of Officer Hulmes' admitted perjury for more than two and a half years.
McCann, the first assistant district attorney, says the office messed up.
Hulmes' perjury wasn't "disclosed [to defense lawyers] prior to the time that your story was written. I would say, absolutely, that we did not handle it the way we should have handled it from that time period on, from 2011 to 2014. These allegations should have been investigated immediately after his testimony, and they weren't."
The DA's failure to play fair with defendants has cost an unknown, and perhaps quite large, number of people a fair trial. Take Gilbert Narvaez, who was convicted of drug dealing charges in August 2012 after Officer Hulmes testified to having witnessed him engage in suspected drug transactions. At the time, Narvaez says he had no idea that Hulmes had admitted to perjury.
Narvaez's lawyer, Christopher Jay Evarts, says, "At the time of sentencing, everybody in the courtroom should have known that Hulmes had lied previously on the record but my client was still sentenced to the maximum allowed under the law. This is a mistake in the system."
Narvaez, who has filed a federal lawsuit, says that Hulmes' testimony was untrue. The night of his arrest, April 20, 2011, Narvaez says that he was visiting a friend in Fairhill, and saw her brother on the corner. They started talking.
"I already knew what he was doin'. I'm not gonna' lie about that. That's none of my business though." Indeed, Narvaez doesn't hesitate to admit that he dealt drugs in the past. But "this time, I was actually innocent," he says.
Photo credit: Mark Stehle
Cops stopped him and others, says Narvaez, and Hulmes "came directly to me and said 'That's him right there.'"
Narvaez accuses Hulmes of strip-searching him in public before he was taken to the Roundhouse.
"The cop that's driving, he's like, 'If you didn't do anything, there's nothing for you to worry about.' I said, 'It's easy for you to say.' I said, 'I got a criminal record.' I said, 'That alone, with my criminal record, is going to make this a piece of cake for the cops because my criminal record states I've been locked up for nothing but for drugs.'"
His son, he says, was about 18 months old when he went to prison, and now "barely knows me. We're starting to reacquaint ourselves now." He blames Hulmes for his troubles. He says he was locked up for 27 months.
"Where is that cool? ... You're sworn to protect the community. And when you sign an affidavit, you're stating that everything that's on that paper that you sign is the truth," says Narvaez. "You don't lie and ruin somebody's life. That's not right. Because of him I can't land a job right now."
The prosecutor in that case was former Assistant District Attorney A.J. Thomson — the same prosecutor who says he was fired last July after a number of disputes with supervisors, including over the office's continued reliance on Hulmes' testimony. Thomson says that he would not have put Hulmes on the stand had he known about his admitted perjury.
"[Narvaez] had no drugs or money on him and was jailed solely on Hulmes' word," says Thomson.
The DA has denied that Thomson "told his supervisors that Hulmes should be removed from duty or precluded from testifying," and says he was fired for poor performance.
But Hulmes had been accused of lying in at least one prior instance. Making matters more serious, the person who made that accusation was then-Assistant District Attorney Kelly Surrick. In 2008, Surrick made an Internal Affairs complaint accusing Hulmes of lying about where a gun had been recovered in a 2007 case. She alleged that Hulmes had told her that the gun was not found in an alley, as he had stated, but rather in the defendant's home. All purportedly to help a source.
Hulmes denied this, and Internal Affairs concluded that it could neither prove nor disprove the allegation.
There has been at least one more allegation of misconduct, resulting in an $82,500 settlement the city made in 2005 with Ruben Morales in a civil suit alleging excessing use of force involving Hulmes and other officers.
Hulmes' arrest last week could unleash a slew of new legal filings seeking to overturn past convictions and sue in civil cases for damages.
It remains unclear who in the District Attorney's Office knew of Hulmes' 2011 testimony and Judge Lynn's excoriation and ruling — and why no action was taken to prosecute Hulmes or to cease calling him as a witness.
McCann said that the DA has investigated why Hulmes' perjury went unpunished and undisclosed. But he will not say who was responsible — who in the office knew what, when — and says that the case is not symptomatic of any larger problem.
"I'm not going to discuss the internal issues here other than to say this — that there has been training with the supervisors on issues surrounding witness credibility, Brady obligations and things of that nature."
Thomson says that he confronted his former supervisors at the DA — East Division Bureau Chief Angel Flores and Assistant Chief Jacqueline McCauley (married in 2011 to Joseph McCauley, a narcotics officer who sources say worked closely with Hulmes) to tell them about Hulmes. And that they did nothing.
"In the absence of any investigation or discipline of ADA McCauley, Flores or their superiors, Hulmes charges brought by the same DA's Office are a joke," says Thomson.
The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania could take action against a prosecutor who failed to "make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense," as required by the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct. Thomson says he plans to file a complaint. But prosecutors are almost never prosecuted or held financially liable for actions taken in the course of their job.
Rowland was likely contemplating the wide latitude granted official misconduct as he sat in a state prison in April 2012, months after Judge Lynn had thrown out the evidence against him. Rowland's mere arrest had kept him in prison because it violated his parole. It is a system that uses a lower standard than a criminal trial's beyond a reasonable doubt: It requires merely that an offender be proven to have committed an infraction by the preponderance of evidence — meaning only that an offense was more likely than not to have occurred.
It was up to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole to decide whether he had "likely" committed the crime — and whether to let him out. Hulmes, recently exposed as a liar in open court, admitted in his deposition that he drove out to Graterford prison to testify in Rowland's case: Judge Lynn had only granted the motion to suppress evidence, Hulmes told the board, because Lynn and Guy Sciolla were friends. The Parole Board ruled against Rowland.
Rowland was shocked that a cop who had wrongfully arrested him had the gall to "disrespect a judge" in order to keep him locked up. Hulmes "admitted to perjury under oath [but] they still allowed him in my hearing and still took his word?"
He appealed the parole denial. But no tape of his original hearing was available.
"You know what happened to the tape, right?" asks Rowland. "It disappear."
Board of Probation and Parole spokesperson Sherry Tate e-mails that they simply "discovered that the hearing tape was blank." At the time they had "used cassette tapes and technical difficulties did sometimes occur," she says, and they switched to digital recorders in 2013. Sciolla says he was told that the tape was lost, and not blank.
The disappearance of such an embarrassing tape, he says wryly, is rather mysterious. Whatever the case, the board suddenly rescinded its earlier decisions and let Rowland go in September 2012 — after 28 months behind bars.
Rowland and Ricks later won a $150,000 civil rights settlement from the City of Philadelphia. Rowland got married after he was released from prison and the couple has had two more daughters. Ricks is working at a dentist's office, studying at Community College of Philadelphia, and hopes to transfer to Temple University.
Torres died in November 2012 from drug intoxication, according to McCann.
"You was worried about him dying," Rowland says, sarcastically. "That man died from a heart attack. He died in his sleep with his daughter on his chest. They was locking him up and all this. He was scared. ... Most people are scared. Believe it, [there are] more Arthur Rowlands out there. ... My wife was scared for me to do this interview. ... It took bravery for Torres to go down there [to Internal Affairs]."
But when it comes to fixing Philadelphia's broken criminal-justice system, bravery is too often in short supply.