A judge has tossed out 53 drug convictions because the cases may have been compromised by a Philadelphia narcotics officer arrested in a federal corruption sting.
Common Pleas Supervising Court Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper overturned the convictions during proceedings in Philadelphia on Friday. Each case was connected to former Philadelphia Police Officer Jeffrey Walker.
Walker, a 22-year-veteran of the force who spent 14-years in the Narcotics Unit, was arrested in May following an FBI sting that lasted several weeks.
In most of the overturned cases, those now vindicated individuals had served time in jail, according to officials. About 10 people are still in prison, but may have to remain in prison if they have other pending cases.
"The vast majority of these defendants entered guilty pleas and we are not in any way conceding their innocence, but under the circumstances here where Officer Walker has been indicted, we've determined that it's appropriate to nolle proc these cases," said Assistant District Attorney Robin Godfrey.
Brad Bridge, Assistant Defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, says it's not that cut and dry.
"What you have are people that were found guilty or pled guilty because the evidence against them based on Officer Walker's allegations were so substantial, they had no choice but to plead guilty," he said. "People went to jail, their lives have been disrupted and hopefully now there'll be some ability to get back and get their lives on track."
Earlier this year, NBC10.com reported how Walker planted drugs inside an alleged drug dealer’s Volkswagen Jetta as the driver had a drink inside a Girard Avenue bar. The former officer then swiped keys to the man’s home and stole $15,000, according to officials.
A federal affidavit showed Walker admitted to planting the drugs and committing the robbery at that alleged drug dealer’s home. He also allegedly discussed ripping off other alleged drug dealers during stops, according to court documents.
Following the rulings, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said the department is continuing to root out corruption.
"It's a dame shame for the citizens of this city that that sort of thing takes place," he said. "There's no excuse for it and there is an on-going criminal investigation against that particular Officer Walker and whatever he gets, he deserves."
Walker is next due in federal court on Nov. 20.