13 Years on Planted Evidence, Man Claims

     (CN) - A trio of current and former Philadelphia narcotics officers falsified evidence that led to an innocent man's wrongful 13-year imprisonment on drug charges, a now free Kareem Torain claims in a federal lawsuit.
     Torain, now 36, was arrested in North Philadelphia in January 2001 and charged with possession of drugs with intent to sell. He claims that defendant Officers Brian Reynolds and Brian Monaghan and former officer Jeffrey Walker fabricated evidence against him and lied during his trial.
     At the time of his arrest, he says, no narcotics or contraband was confiscated from him, but the defendant officers did take the key to his apartment which, he says, they entered before procuring a search warrant.
     Torain implies that drugs and weapons were planted in the apartment, and that it was only then that the officers filed an Affidavit of Probable Cause containing allegations they knew to be false, to secure permission to carry out the supposedly lawful search that garnered the evidence presented against him at trial.
     "On May 7, 2002, following a bench trial, petitioner was convicted of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, knowing and intentional possession of a controlled substance, possession of an instrument of crime, possession of drug paraphernalia, and criminal conspiracy," Torain says in the complaint.
     "The verdict in plaintiff's criminal trial hinged in large part on the false and misleading testimony of Officer Walker and Officer Reynolds regarding plaintiff's arrest," he says. "The verdict in plaintiff's criminal trial hinged in large part on the false and misleading information contained in the Affidavit of Probable Cause."
     As a result of his conviction on the multiple charges, Torain was later sentenced to 12½ to 22½ years in prison.
     Torain says the officers actions are evidence of "systemic deficiencies and deliberate indifference" on the part of the City of Philadelphia and its police department, and that these failures "have caused police officers, including defendant police Officers Monaghan and Reynolds, and former police Officer Walker in this case, to believe that they can violate the rights of citizens, with impunity, including the use of fraud and falsehood" without fear that their actions will be investigated.
     "The actions of all defendants, acting under the color of state law and/or in concert or conspiracy with each other, deprived plaintiff of his rights, privileges and immunities under the laws and Constitution of the United States, in particular, the rights to be secure in one's person and property, to be free from unlawful searches, from false arrest, malicious prosecution and to due process of law," Torain says.
     He claims the "defendant City of Philadelphia failed to properly train, supervise or discipline officers assigned to narcotics units of the Philadelphia Police Department who have engaged over a period of many years in systematic abuses of authority, including but not limited to: (a) the duty to provide only truthful information in securing search and arrest warrants. (b) the duty to ensure that relationships and dealings with confidential informants in accord with Police Department policy and constitutional commands, (c) the duty to disclose exculpatory evidence in criminal cases, (d) their duty not to undertake arrests in the absence of lawful grounds, (e) the duty to provide accurate and truthful information to the prosecutor's office, (f) the duty to report and disclose misconduct and illegal actions of other police officers, (g) the improper execution of search warrants, and in particular prohibitions on searches that go beyond those authorized by the warrant and/or involve the destruction or theft of property or evidence, and (h) the fabrication of evidence against an accused to justify their illegal actions and conduct."
     Torain seeks compensatory and punitive damages for false arrest, malicious prosecution and unjust incarceration.
     He is represented by Michael Pileggi of Philadelphia.
     In recent years scores of drug cases have been dismissed by Philadelphia courts, and several lawsuits have been filed, claiming that narcotics officers routinely planted evidence and lied in court to secure convictions.
     In February 2014, one of the officers named in Torain's lawsuit, Jeffrey Walker, pleaded guilty to robbery and weapons charges related to the theft of $15,000 and 5 pounds of marijuana from a drug dealer's home. Since then, Philly.com reports, at least 85 convictions in which Walker played a role have been reversed.
     Walker, who was arrested after a 24-year career with the Philadelphia Police Department, 14 of them on the narcotics squad, admitted he coordinated a scheme to plaint cocaine on the drug dealer and then rob his home.
     A lawyer for Walker told Philly.com his client has agreed to cooperate with an ongoing federal grand jury investigation of other alleged rogue cops.