PHILADELPHIA In a verdict that touched off an emotional outburst from a former Philadelphia police lieutenant, a jury on Thursday found her and another former officer guilty of stealing utilities at four properties.
The Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury of seven women and five men had just announced the verdict when Aisha Perry stood and cried, "I didn't do this, I didn't do this. I'm a whistle-blower!"
Perry, 54, said she had provided information to the FBI and police officials about corrupt officers, and said the case against her was retaliation.
Judge Earl W. Trent tried several times to quiet Perry, and threatened to hold her in contempt of court. Her lawyer, Tariq El-Shabazz, was similarly unsuccessful in calming her.
"You'll have your time to say all of this," Trent told Perry, referring to the June 11 sentencing of her and codefendant and sometime business partner George Suarez, 55.
Perry's outburst prompted Assistant District Attorney Terri Domsky to go on record denying Perry's allegations of attempting to hinder her defense.
The jury had deliberated about 13 hours since Tuesday after four days of trial before finding the two guilty of theft of services, conspiracy, and risking a catastrophe.
Perry was found guilty of six of nine counts involving the theft of about $22,253 in gas and electricity at her home on Winchester Avenue in the Northeast, and an investment property she and Suarez bought in the 1900 block of West Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia.
The jury acquitted Perry of two counts and could not decide on another. Domsky said she would not retry Perry on the hung count.
Suarez was found guilty of nine of 16 charges involving the theft of about $20,230 in gas and electric service at the Girard Avenue property and two others he owns, in the 2200 block of West Tioga Street, Tioga, and the 500 block of Devereaux Avenue, Crescentville.
El-Shabazz left court before Perry and did not comment. Suarez and lawyer Brian J. McMonagle declined comment.
The judge let Perry and Suarez remain free on bail of $5,000 each pending sentencing.
The prosecutor declined to comment on the sentence she will seek.
Trent, however, warned her that in making her recommendation she should know he believes "they have already suffered significantly in the loss of their careers."
After a yearlong investigation, the two were charged in 2012 with pocketing thousands by disconnecting or bypassing meters monitoring use of gas, electric, and water service at the four properties.
Both testified in their defense, denying wrongdoing, and McMonagle and El-Shabazz argued that no one saw either actually doing the work needed to divert utilities and that the case was circumstantial.
Domsky argued that only Perry and Suarez benefitted by bypassing utilities at their properties.
"It just so happened that a fairy went around" and altered meters at those properties, Domsky said. "They got caught red-handed."
Suarez was an officer for 26 years and assigned to the Northwest-based 14th District when he was dismissed.
Perry, a 31-year-veteran, had a storied career that included a commendation for rescuing two people from a burning building in 1994 and a 1998 federal lawsuit contending that department officials retaliated against her, an African American woman, for reporting wrongdoing by white officers.
In 1999, a federal jury awarded Perry $42,000 in damages and the judge ordered the department to consider Perry for the next sergeant's vacancy.
At the time of her dismissal, Perry was assigned to the 39th District in North Philadelphia.