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Ex-Philadelphia police officer allegedly sexually assaulted witnesses, suspects

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. Philip Nordo was arraigned Tuesday afternoon on more than 35 counts. Much of the grand jury report was redacted to protect the identity of victims in the allegations, but a handful of pages were unsealed showing multiple accusations of rape, intimidation, sexual misconduct and theft of city funds.

A spokesman for the Philadelphia district attorney's office declined to comment further on the recommended 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' commissary account and that he had fraternized with people who were connected to criminal investigations.

"Disturbing, troubling, and quite frankly, a lot of it's sickening," Philadelphia police chief Richard Ross told CBS radio affiliate KYW of the allegations. 

Nordo  was ordered held without bail during a hearing Tuesday, KYW reports. A defense attorney said in court Nordo maintains his innocence.

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

Authorities alleged Nordo used his position to intimidate and groom male suspects and witnesses into sexual acts, and that he used intimidation and manipulation to keep the victims from coming forward.

"Nordo used his power and position to coerce and intimidate his potential victims," the grand jury report says. "He groomed them to submit to his sexually coercive advances by gaining their trust and bestowing favors on them. After these periods of grooming, Nordo sexually assaulted them."

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.

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 incarcerated people that homosexual inmates who were being prepared for release be referred to him so he could "have sex with them or sexually groom them." 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, the report said.

The report says he sometimes targeted individuals who were handcuffed or shackled, and "his dominating position reduced the individuals' ability to resist or report the assault."

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

"Nordo implied that coming forward would cause serious problems for them," the report says.

The report says Nordo threatened some people with arrest or prosecution without probable cause; helped others avoid prosecution for "readily provable" crimes they had committed; coerced false witness statements and sought "promises of loyalty" in exchange for promises of his own loyalty.

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.

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