A criminal defense attorney contends that “every case” that ex-cop John Becker assisted with could potentially be jeopardized and Montgomery County may have been “exposed to liability.”
Becker, 42, of Horsham, a 17-year Hatboro Police veteran, as well as a special county detective for the Montgomery County Drug Task Force for more than a decade, is accused of coercing informants to buy drugs for his own personal use. He has also been charged with allegedly stealing cash, guns and drugs from the Hatboro Police Department’s evidence locker.
The thefts alone - some of which Becker admitted to in this criminal complaint - are enough to taint his credibility, according to criminal defense attorney Peter Scuderi.
“Who knows what to believe? Why would I believe what he’s saying?” Scuderi asked. “Anytime a cop is charged with something like this those cases get thrown out routinely.”
Philadelphia’s 39th District scandal is an example of how police corruption can impact arrests made and cases tried. According to this article, 1,400 cases investigated by a half dozen “dirty cops” were reviewed and, in some cases, overturned.
Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, the agency which charged Becker, said the office was “not aware of any cases that are impacted.”
Scuderi counters that since Becker is alleged to have been involved in criminal activities, the charges he is now facing may only be the tip of the iceberg.
“I would stick everybody in front of a grand jury if I was a prosecutor,” said Scuderi, who in his more than 30-year career has defended mobster-turned-informant John Veasey, and more recently is the lawyer for Connor McNicholas, the Horsham man facing vehicular homicide charges for the deaths of 2010 Hatboro-Horsham grads Eddie Coombs and Robert Nagel.
Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele did not say whether a grand jury investigation was a possibility. He said a review of cases was conducted in May and June 2011.
“We concluded that we would not ever rely upon (Becker’s) testimony as a witness in a criminal case,” Steele wrote in an email to Patch. “To that end, deputy District Attorneys reviewed every matter in which Becker was involved to determine if either his testimony would be needed in court or if his involvement was critical to the outcome of the case. In any case where he would have been a critical witness, we chose not to proceed. In cases where other evidence could prove the crime, we were able to move forward.”
Steele said a review of case records determined that Becker “had a very limited number of cases” in recent years.
Steele did not offer specifics with regard to Becker’s assignment to the county’s drug task force, except to provide a signed copy of Becker’s Sept. 13, 2000 swearing in. According to the county’s Web site, the task force, which was formed in 2000 with 165 police officers, has since grown to more than 450 officers.
The task force “serves as a central source of drug intelligence,” for the county’s 53 municipalities, according to the site. It provides “aggressive drug patrols designed to combat open-air dealers and violent street crimes related to drug dealing,” the site continues.
In the criminal complaint filed by the Attorney General’s Office, Becker said he began taking Oxycontin in 2003 to help with severe joint pain associated with an immune deficiency disease he had been diagnosed with that same year. His alleged thefts of guns, drugs and cash from Hatboro Police Department’s evidence locker were said to have begun in the latter half of 2010 through early 2011.
Becker’s own admissions and the charges he faces serve to “jeopardize every case,” Scuderi said.
“That’s why it should be so important,” Scuderi said. “This is about a perversion of the law enforcement system.”
Scuderi said would-be criminals behind bars could legitimately fight their convictions as well, which would pose problems for the county, as well as Hatboro.
“It also exposes the county to liability,” Scuderi said. “If somebody is locked up unlawfully the county could be sued.”