Disgraced Hero Officer Cops a Plea in Rape Case

By Dan Stamm and Vince Lattanzio
|  Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014  |  Updated 7:03 PM EDT
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Former hero cop Richard DeCoatsworth pleads guilty to a felony and awaits sentencing.

NBC10 - Daralene Jones

Former hero cop Richard DeCoatsworth pleads guilty to a felony and awaits sentencing.

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A former Philadelphia Police officer once hailed as a hero pleaded guilty today to charges stemming from two different assault charges -- one involving heroin -- from last year.

Former officer Richard DeCoatsworth faced 10 counts including rape, assault case, false imprisonment, firearms and drug charges after he allegedly made two women take drugs and perform oral sex on him at gunpoint. The 28-year-old was also charged with assaulting his live-in girlfriend in an incident on May 9.

On Tuesday, DeCoatsworth went to court for a motions hearing on those cases but instead copped a plea.

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“Richard DeCoatsworth entered an open guilty plea today,” said assistant district attorney Ashley Lynam. “He pled guilty to distributing heroin to individuals, to victimizing women and promoting prostitution and also to assaulting his longtime girlfriend.”

Lynam said DeCoatsworth’s status as a former officer didn’t get him any leniency.

Prosecutors said they chose to drop the more serious charges like rape to protect the victims from the stress of a trial.

“The victims in this case were already vulnerable women -- it’s the reason they were targeted,” said Lynam.

DeCoatsworth lawyer Chuck Peruto said that the victims' testimony likely wouldn't have stood up if the case went to trial.

Prosecutors wouldn’t reveal the sentence they plan to seek on March 11. DeCoatsworth's lawyer argued that time served in jail while awaiting trial would earn him an early release but the judge rejected that.

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Judge Reduces Bail for Former Hero Cop

At a hearing on Monday, Common Pleas Judge Charles Ehrlich reduced Richard DeCoatsworth's bail to $3 million. For DeCoatsworth to be released, he must come up with 10 percent, which $300,000. NBC10's Daralene Jones reports.
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According to an earlier indictment, the former officer allegedly forced a woman into prostitution at a Days Inn motel in the Lawncrest section of Philadelphia in May of last year. DeCoatsworth's previous attorney petitioned the court to release text messages from DeCoatsworth’s cell phone in hopes that the text messages would show the full extent of the former officer’s relationships with all parties involved.

The guilty pleas to the two felony counts and one summary offense mark the end of a downward spiral for the once hero police officer.

DeCoatsworth was shot in the face during a September 2007 traffic stop. After being shot, he chased the suspect for some time before collapsing. Police say he was able to radio enough information about the shooter for other officers to nab him.

He was honored for his heroism in 2008 with a Top Cop award and sat next to First Lady Michelle Obama during President Barack Obama’s first address to congress at the U.S. Capitol.

His reign as a top cop began to unravel in the coming years. The city has already spent at least $1.5 million defending itself against DeCoatsworth's checkered past in the department including a couple alleged violent incidents.

DeCoatsworth left the Philadelphia Police force on disability in December 2011.

Outside of court Tuesday, DeCoatsworth's mother Evelyn DeCoatsworth Myers said "it was a good day" and that her son should already be out of jail on time served. His family has claimed the whole thing was a setup to tear him down.

He had become addicted to painkillers prescribed following being shot, according to Peruto.

The time in prison has given him time to take stock of his life.

"He really has had time to reflect for the past 10 months," said Peruto.

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