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December 16, 2022

Ex-Philly homicide detective sentenced to prison for sexual abuse of witnesses, informants

Philip Nordo, 56, was found guilty in June and will spend up to 49 years behind bars. Several of his cases have been linked to wrongful convictions

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Philip Nordo Main Bill Oxford/Unsplash

Former Philadelphia homicide detective Philip Nordo was sentenced Friday following his conviction for sexual assault, rape and official oppression.

A former Philadelphia police officer convicted of sexually abusing witnesses and informants was sentenced Friday to spend between 24 1/2 and 49 years in prison.

Philip Nordo, 56, was a 20-year veteran of the police department when he was fired in 2017 amid allegations of misconduct. An internal affairs investigation found that Nordo had been accused of paying a witness in a murder case and improperly spending leisure time with people connected to criminal cases. 

Two years later, a grand jury presentment detailed a history of Nordo using his position of power to intimidate male witnesses and groom them for sexual acts. In some instances, Nordo would display his weapon to his victims during interrogations, prosecutors said. 

In June, Nordo was found guilty of rape, sexual assault, official oppression and related crimes. During the 2 1/2-week trial, three men testified that Nordo had come to them for information in homicide cases and that he had coerced them into sexual favors, including an incident at police headquarters and another at a hotel in Chinatown.

In one case, prosecutors said Nordo misused $20,000 in reward money that he gave to one of the witnesses in a trial, an informant in the 2012 shooting of police officer Moses Walker Jr. Other detectives involved in the case testified that the informant did not provide significant information in the case, but later received the reward money, the Inquirer reported during the trial.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who testified at the trial, said there was evidence going as far back as 2005 that Nordo had engaged in sexual misconduct involving a man he was interrogating. Krasner said that evidence, which allegedly surfaced before Nordo became a homicide detective, was "disregarded" at a time when the District Attorney's Office "was not known for holding law enforcement accountable."

Philip Nordo MugshotSource/Philadelphia Police

Philip Nordo

Nordo joined the the police department in 1997 and was promoted to detective in 2002. He was assigned to the homicide unit in 2009.

At least five people convicted of homicides in cases Nordo investigated have been fully exonerated. Others have had their sentences reduced and one defendant was granted a retrial, Krasner's office said. Prosecutors are still reviewing about 25 more cases.

One of the vacated convictions was for the murder of Christian Massey, the Marple Newtown High School student, who was killed while being robbed for his Beats headphones in Overbrook in 2013.

Arkel Garcia was convicted of the homicide in 2015, but there were no witnesses, no recovered murder weapon and no fingerprint or DNA evidence linking him to the crime. The prosecution's main evidence was Nordo's claim that Garcia had confessed to him. But the video of the alleged confession contradicted some of the detective's key claims, and the recording was of such poor-quality that Garcia's face was unrecognizable in the footage.

Garcia's conviction was thrown out in 2019 due to Nordo's pattern of misconduct.

“Mr. Nordo is now being held accountable for the many disturbing ways in which he abused his oath and his badge to hurt and threaten vulnerable young men," Krasner said after Nordo's conviction. "His actions undoubtedly destroyed trust between members of the public and law enforcement."