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Bail hearings set in cases involving probed officer

A Philadelphia judge yesterday set June 19 for a hearing to consider whether to grant bail to 11 imprisoned individuals convicted in cases involving narcotics Officer Jeffrey Cujdik and his former paid confidential informant.

A Philadelphia judge yesterday set June 19 for a hearing to consider whether to grant bail to 11 imprisoned individuals convicted in cases involving narcotics Officer Jeffrey Cujdik and his former paid confidential informant.

Common Pleas Court Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper also asked city prosecutors to contact the FBI to try to learn how the criminal probe of Cujdik and others in the Narcotics Field Unit is progressing.

Woods-Skipper said she was worried that a prolonged probe into whether Cujdik and informant Ventura Martinez falsified information on search warrants could affect Cujdik's numerous open cases - not just those of people convicted.

The Public Defender's Office has asked the judge to order new trials or dismiss charges against 52 people whose drug convictions rest on work by Cujdik and Martinez.

Although the next hearing will focus on bail for the 11 people in prison, Woods-Skipper said she would do status checks on the other 41.

Also yesterday, Assistant Public Defender Bradley S. Bridge told the judge he would likely supplement the 52 cases with an unspecified number of new petitions.

The new cases, Bridge said, have resulted from further investigation based on his office's interview with Martinez as well as people who had come forward since the allegations first became public.

Bridge also said - and police Internal Affairs officials confirmed - that the probe has resulted in a fourth narcotics officer being taken off the streets and assigned to desk duty.

Internal Affairs officials said Thomas J. Tolstoy, 35, an officer for almost 10 years, was reassigned May 21 to administrative duties at Police Headquarters.

No officer has been charged. Tolstoy joined Cujdik, 34, a 12-year officer; Richard L. Cujdik, 35, a 13-year police veteran who is Jeffrey's brother; and Robert McDonnell Jr., 38, an officer since 1993. All will likely remain performing administrative work until the FBI probe is completed.

Tolstoy, like McDonnell, appears to have been drawn into the investigation because, according to court records, he often partnered with Jeffrey Cujdik and Martinez - "Confidential Informant No. 103" - in critical aspects of their cases.

While Tolstoy illustrates the growing impact of the probe on police narcotics officers, yesterday's hearing gave a first glimpse of what many expect to become a wave of dismissed cases and, ultimately, civil rights lawsuits.

Since the Cujdik allegations became public in early February, the District Attorney's and Public Defender's Offices have agreed to postpone action in Cujdik's open cases.

But at some point, even those cases will run afoul of speedy-trial rules. The first such case fell on May 15, when the District Attorney's Office dismissed more than a dozen drug and gun charges against a Kensington man.

The charges filed in December 2007 against Harold Cancel, 35, had to be tried by May 27 and the judge refused to grant any more delays.

It was for that reason that Woods-Skipper urged Assistant District Attorney Robin Godfrey to, before the next hearing, "check with the FBI about how this is progressing, how long they anticipate this investigation will last."

"I anticipate that at some point all of [Cujdik's] open matters will become part of these proceedings as well," the judge added.

FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver said he could not discuss the ongoing investigation.

In addition to Cancel's case, federal prosecutors in February dismissed charges in a Cujdik case that had been transferred to the federal court for prosecution.

None of the officers affected by the allegations has spoken publicly about them.

Jeffrey Cujdik's attorney and the leadership of the Fraternal Order of Police have called Martinez's allegations lies and maintained that Martinez, 47, who worked for Cujdik almost eight years, went public with the story to retaliate against the veteran drug officer.

Cujdik's productive relationship with the former drug user came undone in October when Martinez's identify was disclosed in court by the lawyer and investigator for a defendant whose criminal case the informant helped Cujdik develop.

Martinez was also photographed leaving a Kensington rowhouse owned by Cujdik and leased to a woman who was the informant's girlfriend and mother of two of his children. Cujdik subsequently had the woman evicted, contending she was in arrears on rent.