Philip Nordo was a dedicated Philadelphia homicide detective who spent a decade solving murders, sometimes with the help of informants — and some of them are now falsely accusing him of sexual abuse, one of his lawyers told jurors Thursday as Nordo’s trial on rape and corruption charges drew to a close.
“Phil Nordo was investigating killers,” said attorney Richard J. Fuschino Jr. “The people who have information about murder are not the nice guys.”
Fuschino presented that line of defense during closing arguments in Nordo’s sexual assault and corruption trial. Prosecutors have charged Nordo with sexually assaulting three witnesses during the course of investigations, as well as defrauding city reward funds and intimidating his victims to stay quiet.
Nordo, who faces charges including rape, sexual assault, and official oppression, has denied the allegations. And throughout the two-week trial, his attorneys, including Fuschino, have sought to persuade jurors that he is a decorated investigator being wrongfully accused by men with credibility issues and inconsistent testimony.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Tuesday after receiving instructions from Common Pleas Court Judge Giovanni Campbell.
Nordo faces the possibility of years behind bars if convicted.
During closing arguments, Fuschino said Nordo’s accusers were not telling the truth. In one instance, Fuschino said a man who accused Nordo of raping him in a hotel room was an “actor” who deployed “crocodile tears” on the stand while describing the incident in vastly different terms than he had before a grand jury several years ago.
“The reason [the man’s account] makes no sense? The reason it’s inconsistent?” Fuschino said. “It’s not the truth.”
He said another witness — a prison guard who accused Nordo of trying to molest him in a car — not only provided conflicting details about that incident, but also barely seemed able to recognize Nordo in the courtroom.
And a third accuser who said Nordo tried to grope and kiss him, Fuschino said, repeatedly called Nordo from jail asking for help.
The prosecution, he said, has attempted to criminalize Nordo’s ability to gain information from inmates or informants, something Fuschino said was “unconscionable.”
Assistant District Attorney Brian Collins disputed that characterization, telling jurors during his closing argument that many details of the witnesses’ accounts were remarkably consistent — even though none of the three complainants knew each other or had a clear motivation to lie.
Some said Nordo called them a “freak,” Collins said, or said he tried to entice them with the promise of a job at a pornography business. Collins said it was humiliating for the accusers to relive that experience by testifying — especially because they were asked in graphic detail about traumatic sexual encounters.
Each man said on the stand that he didn’t want to be there. And Collins said none of them received money or favorable treatment on criminal matters in return for participating in the case.
“Why would they lie?” he asked. “Why would these three men make this up?”
Earlier in the trial, the defense sought to bolster its portrait of Nordo as a reliable cop through the use of several character witnesses.
Two of his former supervisors from homicide — Capt. James Clark and now-retired Sgt. Robert Wilkins — vouched for Nordo’s character and honesty on Wednesday, as did a host of Nordo’s friends and relatives, including his wife, son, and daughter.
Clark and Wilkins also offered brief testimony about crime reward money. Prosecutors have accused Nordo of improperly steering $20,000 to the man they said he would go on to rape, saying the man — who gave Nordo information about the 2012 murder of Officer Moses Walker Jr. — was inconsequential to the investigation.
Clark and Wilkins said they had signed off on the documents supporting the man’s candidacy for the reward money, adding that they’d relied on the information Nordo supplied in the documents.
They were not questioned in detail about broader issues related to Nordo’s alleged crimes or their supervision of him while in the unit.