Nation

Ex-detective faces charges in sexual assault of witnesses

Philip Nordo is shown in this undated photo released by the Philadelphia Police Department.
Philadelphia Police Department via Associated Press
Philip Nordo is shown in this undated photo released by the Philadelphia Police Department.

PHILADELPHIA — A former Philadelphia police officer was arrested Tuesday on allegations he sexually assaulted male witnesses and suspects over his decade-plus career as a detective.

A judge ordered 52-year-old Philip Nordo held without bail in protective custody during a preliminary arraignment Tuesday afternoon on a more than 35-count grand jury presentment. Nordo pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Much of the grand jury report was redacted to protect the identity of victims in the allegations, but a handful of pages were unsealed Tuesday showing multiple accusations of rape, intimidation, sexual misconduct, and theft of city funds.

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A spokesman for the Philadelphia district attorney’s office declined to comment further on the charges against the 52-year-old former police department veteran. Nordo, who was working in the homicide division at the time, was fired in 2017 after allegations were made that he placed funds in a witness’s commissary account and that he had fraternized with people who were connected to criminal investigations.

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A spokesman for the police union said union officials had reviewed the charges and would not be representing Nordo.

During the court hearing Tuesday, Nordo’s attorney, Michael van der Veen, said the former homicide detective maintains his innocence.

Authorities alleged in the grand jury report that Nordo used his position to intimidate and groom male suspects and witnesses into sexual acts.

One victim reported in 2005 when he was arrested, Nordo goaded him into masturbating in an interrogation room, alleging the detective kissed him during the encounter, according to the report.

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That victim reported the incident to jail employees, but it was unclear from the report whether any disciplinary action was taken. The grand jury report noted the victim has since died in a homicide and the case has not been solved.

The report said Nordo asked that homosexual inmates who were being prepared for release be referred to him and that he regularly volunteered to transport suspects or witnesses for other detectives, often using that time alone to allegedly ask personal questions that might allow him to cultivate relationships.

Authorities said victims alleged Nordo would display his firearm during these grooming sessions and would tell suspects no one would believe them if they reported the alleged incidents.

The potential charges also include a count of theft by deception because authorities said Nordo filed false claims for reward money and other incentives worth a total of about $20,000 for some of the victims.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in July the district attorney’s office had agreed not to challenge the dismissal of charges in at least one murder case where Nordo had been accused of having inappropriate contact with several witnesses. A second suspect who had pleaded guilty to charges in the same homicide was granted immediate parole instead of being sentenced to potential decades in prison.