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August 18, 2016

Delco man acquitted for allegedly setting up drug deal police didn't request

In verdict, judge tells defendant not to watch cop movies

Odd News Courts
Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou Nik Tzimas Hatziefstathiou/Facebook

Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou.

The powers of a citizen hoping to fight crime only go so far, as one Delaware County man found out.

In a case that loosely resembles the "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" episode where Charlie's attempt to become a police informant proves futile, Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou, 22, of Broomall, was acquitted Tuesday after he allegedly tried outing a local drug dealer to police.

Here's the chain of events, according to the Delaware County Daily Times' record of the court proceedings:

• Hatziefstathiou shows up at Marple police headquarters along with co-defendant Flavjo Latollari with a written account of buying drugs from a dealer at an apartment complex along with a manila envelope with nine pills enclosed, Patrolman Sean Hannigan testifies. Hatziefstathiou offers him a deal like the ones prosecutors give cooperating witnesses, Hannigan says, but he tells him he isn't going to work with them in that way and escorts them out of the building.

• Hannigan gets the pills tested, and they reportedly come back positive for a controlled substance. Hatziefstathiou is charged with drug possession.

• During testimony, Hannigan explains he was skeptical of Hatziefstathiou's intentions. For one, a Snapchat he presented as supposed evidence of the deal said he was picking up three pills, but Hatziefstathiou produced nine to police. Also, police were watching the area where the deal supposedly went down with surveillance cameras, so Hannigan thought maybe Hatziefstathiou became aware of that fact and wanted to save himself from prosecution.

• Ultimately, though, Judge Ken Bradley rules that Hatziefstathiou simply had a "misguided belief" he was going to help nab a "nefarious" drug dealer. In his ruling Tuesday, he tells him not to watch "drug movies or law enforcement movies" and to "leave law enforcement to the professionals in the future.”

Hatziefstathiou is not your average Delco citizen watchdog. He's a concert producer with a verified check and more than 30,000 followers on Twitter, a following big enough that celebrity gossip websites have cited him as a source for Selena Gomez news.

In an email to PhillyVoice Wednesday following his acquittal, Hatziefstathiou chided police for reporting him to the district attorney instead of using his tip to go after the dealer, citing the state and county's opioid epidemic.

"The tax money wasted on this prosecution could've been used to save a parent from losing their child to these lethal narcotics," he said in a statement.

The Daily Times noted that Hatziefstathiou is still on probation for harassment charges in a separate case. However, his lawyer told the newspaper he'd no longer be on house arrest following Tuesday's verdict.