Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Lawyer For Former D.A.'s Bodyguard Claims He Was Retaliated Against For Cooperating With Feds

AP/Matt Rourke
by Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Pierre Gomez had a front-row seat when it came to watching former District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams in action.

In 2010, Detective Gomez went to work on the personal detail for the new D.A. "As a member of the detail, Detective Gomez provided protection for Williams, which included traveling with Williams to events and other personal meetings," Robert J. McNelly, a lawyer for Gomez, wrote in a letter to Interim D.A. Kelley Hodge that threatens a federal lawsuit. "During this tenure, Detective Gomez gleaned much information regarding Williams' activities."

Gomez was on duty at the Union League the day the D.A. had lunch with Joseph Sullivan, then a chief inspector assigned to Homeland Security, and Mohammad Ali, the Jordanian-born businessman who pleaded guilty to bribing Williams.

Gomez was there the day Williams picked up a red 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible from Michael Weiss, the owner of a Philadelphia gay bar who testified under a grant of immunity about bribing Williams. So the FBI came to Gomez in 2015, when the detective was assigned to the Drug Enforcement Agency, and asked him to cooperate with the federal investigation of his former boss. Gomez was granted immunity and cooperated with the federal investigation for two years. His reward, his lawyer says, was to be retaliated against by his bosses.

Cameron Kline, a spokesman for the D.A.'s office, did not respond to a request for comment. Gomez also declined comment.

 "As a result of his cooperation, Detective Gomez suffered systematic retaliation from Philadelphia County," his lawyer wrote. "The county targeted Detective Gomez and acted to discourage him from assisting investigators. Specifically, it sought to prevent Detective Gomez from testifying at a possible future trial" as well as before the federal grand jury investigating D.A. Williams.

"The County's retaliatory conduct violates Detective Gomez's rights protected by federal law and the United States Constitution, McNelly wrote.

Gomez was first approached by FBI agents on May 14, 2015, outside the DEA office where he worked.

"The agents indicated to Detective Gomez that they wished to speak with him regarding the corruption investigation of Seth Williams," wrote McNelly, of McNelly & Goldstein LLC of Hatfield. "Detective Gomez voluntarily accompanied the agents to an adjacent building, which housed offices for the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The agents were cognizant of the need for discretion, and the likely retribution that Detective Gomez would receive if the County learned of their conversation."

"Immediately on the flowing day, Lt. Kenyatta Lee summoned Detective Gomez into his office," McNelly wrote. "Lt. Lee is the direct supervisor of Detective Gomez at the County Detective's Unit."

During an "exceedingly rare" meeting with Lee, the lieutenant "inquired about the content of Detective Gomez's conversation with the FBI investigators," McNelly wrote. "Lt. Lee probed to ascertain what specific questions the FBI asked. Detective Gomez answered Lt. Lee's questions respectfully and truthfully, but provided as few details as possible."

"A few short weeks later, Detective Gomez received a phone call from an individual purporting to be an investigator hired by the attorneys representing Williams," McNelly wrote. "The individual stated that the county 'could make it good' for Detective Gomez, if he exhibited loyalty towards Williams in the investigation. Gomez ddi not respond and ended the phone call."

That wasn't the only way Detective Gomez found himself on the outs with his former teammates at county detectives.

"Notably, the County paid for the legal representation of other possible witnesses," McNelly wrote. "After these changes, however, the County never offered to compensate Detective Gomez for the attorney he was forced to retain."

In the letter, attorney McNelly claims that Lt. Lee and other county employees "began retaliating against Detective Gomez" by messing with his work assignment. Lt. Lee "attempted to reassign Gomez from a DEA task force," McNelly wrote, but the transfer order got quashed.

Undaunted, Lt. Lee filed "an improper reprimand memo against Detective Gomez, citing specific violations of Police Department rules and regulations," McNelly wrote. Even though Lt. Lee and Detective Gomez were not members of the city police department but employed by the county detectives unit, "which sets forth its own rules and regulations," the lawyer wrote.

The reprimand letter was a "baseless and a transparent attempt to tarnish the stellar employment record of Detective Gomez," McNelly wrote. "Whether the memo continues to blemish Detective Gomez's record -- and his ability to advance or seek other employment -- remains unknown."

The county further retaliated against Detective Gomez by preventing him from working overtime in the wiretap room, duties that usually earned the detective about $30,000 annually,

In addition, McNelly wrote, the D.A.'s office gave "Detective Gomez's name and personal information to a local newspaper reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer, "even though he [Gomez] was presently on a covert assignment with the DEA."

On March 11, 2016, reporter Barbara Laker requested information regarding the members of Seth Williams' protection detail, "including the individuals' names, salaries and overtime numbers." The information was provided by Elizabeth "B. J." Graham-Rubin, an assistant district attorney, McNelly wrote. "The County had specific knowledge of Detective Gomez's cover assignment, and decided to release his name and information regardless."

"The county's decision to release the name of a detective on covert assignment is an egregious example of retaliation," McNelly wrote. "For the purpose of retribution, the County intentionally risked the life and safety of Detective Gomez."

The demand letter, which seeks $200,000, said the county further retaliated against Detective Gomez by assigning him to an unmarked police car that was "experiencing a recall in regard to its seatbelts."

"Detective Gomez reported the recall to his superiors," McNelly wrote. "He received no response . . . After three weeks of riding in a vehicle with defective seatbelts, Detective Gomez decided to comply with the recall at his own expense."

McNelly's letter implies that Philadelphia County officials loyal to Seth Williams were circling the wagons in an effort to protect him from a federal investigation that eventually brought him down.

Claude Thomas, chief of county detectives, "circulated an email that directed all personnel in the county detective's unit not to respond to third-parties inquiries regarding District Attorney Williams or the ensuing investigation," McNelly wrote.

"Detective Gomez received a Grand Jury subpoena, and promptly notified Thomas," McNelly wrote. "Detective Gomez asked whether Thomas's directive applied to federal inquiries, including the subpoena. Thomas responded that his directive applied to all inquiries -- even to Grand Jury subpoenas."

Attention U.S. Attorney's Office: How is this not obstruction of justice? Will Skaggs, deputy public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Camden, declined comment.

"Philadelphia County subjected Detective Gomez to persistent harassment and retaliation due to his exercise of protected First Amendment rights," McNelly wrote. "The county retaliated against Detective Gomez for his decision to cooperate with the FBI and offer truthful testimony."

"Notwithstanding the foregoing, Detective Gomez is willing to reach an amicable resolution with Philadelphia County," the lawyer wrote. He asked for compensation for injuries "in the amount of $200,000."

The county has until Aug. 24th to respond. "If you refuse to consider Detective Gomez's very reasonable proposal, he will have no alternative to take immediate action," McNelly wrote, in the form of a "federal retaliation claim against Philadelphia County."

While Detective Gomez was cooperating with the feds in the investigation of D.A. Williams, his superior at the district attorney's office was Kathleen Martin, who was hired in 2015 as chief of staff and integrity officer.

Williams promoted Martin to first assistant district attorney. She took over as acting district attorney when Williams voluntarily suspended his law license, but stayed on as D.A. so he could still collect his $175,000 a year salary.

Lat week, days after Interim D.A. Kelley Hodge received Detective Gomez's demand letter, Kathleen Martin was demoted to deputy district attorney in charge of administration and technology.

Cameron Kline, spokesperson for the D.A.'s office, did not respond to a question about whether the demand letter from Gomez and the demotion of Martin were related in any way.

10 comments:

  1. So let me get this straight the Inquirer/Barbara Laker and the District Attorneys office retaliated against a witness in a federal case. How are they all not in prison ?

    I would love to see Detective Gomez's get a settlement but a federal trial showing what their office does daily is what is really needed,with long prison sentences for all.

    Of course Big Trial readers will know that a trial is taking place and will have accurate daily reporting from the courtroom, the rest of the region will be subjected to whatever the District Attorneys office is spinning that week.

    How did an experienced reporter like Barbara Laker not think this was illegal ? Does it make it legal if a prosecutor says to do something? She has enough knowledge to know this was wrong. This is totally unacceptable on her part, what is this saying about the Inquirer, to hell with witnesses.

    After a stint in the slammer, I would reassign her to the gardening section, putting someone's life in danger and undermining an investigation does not warrant holding a job in the media. Unless of course the Inquirer is just a front for prosecutors.
    Strange what you learn from the Inquirer about what is legal and what is not, selective reporting.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Why would the FBI want to expose a CI to his employer in a straight investigation and the employer keep him as his bodyguard?

    Who was Williams willing to give up to the FBI for his stay out of jail card?

    Doesn't that point to the source and leak that brought DN a Pulitzer?
    Laker must have done some serious jello wrestling for that relationship.

    ReplyDelete
  3. >> The county has until Aug. 24th to respond.

    Mr. Cipriano, Great piece, as usual.
    It's now the 28th. Any update?

    ReplyDelete
  4. It seems like it's time for let's make a deal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good afternoon Ralph, i am wondering if you could change the photo attached to this story. the police officer in this picture is not Gomez and I am getting confronted about this story unfairly.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, Officer Jackson, will make a switch.

      Delete
  5. Inky reporters who condemn defendants with information from the prosecution as evidence, should mandatorily have to sit through every minute of a trial to see if what is presented at trial even resembles what was given (leaked) to them as "facts".

    Following a trial the reporter should correct for the public any falsehoods they had printed against a defendant, correcting the record to spare innocents a lifetime of retaliation by reporters who see fit to continually print inaccurate facts.

    They also need to follow a defendant through the entire process and report if the defendant pleaded guilty to avoid a trial and if they did so due to fear, if they felt helpless and thought they would unable to convince a jury they were innocent due to their reporting.

    As the prosecution can proceed without any investigation,as was evident in the Msgr. Lynn case, the Inky obviously can print an article without any real facts other than the prosecution's half hearted attempt at "justice". Justice does not exist for those innocently accused by the prosecution or the Inky.

    People will always be on opposite sides of political fences, take sides in religious discussions and moral disputes but facts are facts and they need to be held up for all to see. Facts are not an opinion.

    A reporter's beliefs should not cloud the facts, their hopes for a desired outcome needs to be held in check,slanting the news is very dangerous. Preconceived prejudices spill out into public opinion outraging and inflaming with no basis in truth.

    I would suggest that they go so far as to incite violence and hatred by swaying people with fake facts meant to cause vile disgust for the defendants, who in some cases do not warrant being a recipient of the outrage for their entire life.

    Words matter and it matters to get the words correct.

    ReplyDelete
  6. If Lynne Abraham really wanted to perform her civic duty and save her legacy, she would reveal the mountain of evidence she had against Williams and why she neglected to expose him for the criminal that he is and the candidate she managed to support.

    Ralph, that would be an interview your loyal followers would applaud.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ralph - do you have a picture of Detective Gomez? And is there an anonymous way somebody could give you information other than by email?

    ReplyDelete

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