A federal judge has stayed for 90 days all action in two civil-rights lawsuits involving the conduct of some Philadelphia narcotics officers in a 2007 search of a Kensington couple's home.
U.S. District Judge Thomas N. O'Neill Jr. ruled Thursday, partly granting the May 4 motion by Assistant City Solicitor Armando Brigandi.
Brigandi asked to suspend the suits of Lady Gonzalez and Alberto Nunez until a federal-city task force had finished looking into allegations that some narcotics officers used false information to obtain search warrants.
Brigandi argued that freezing the suits was in the public interest because depositions and pretrial discovery could endanger the investigation and because the officers likely would refuse to speak by invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The judge stayed the cases for 90 days and asked the parties for a probe update before any further delay.
O'Neill agreed with Jeremy H.G. Ibrahim, the couple's attorney, that an open-ended stay might allow some witnesses' recollections to fade and make it difficult to locate others.
The investigation by the FBI and police Internal Affairs began in February, after former confidential informant Ventura Martinez publicly alleged that he and Officer Jeffrey Cujdik sometimes falsified information about drug suspects to obtain court-approved search warrants.
Cujdik, through his lawyer, has denied the allegations, and no officer has been charged. But officials have reassigned Cujdik, his brother Richard, and fellow narcotics officers Robert McDonnell and Thomas Tolstoy to desk work until the probe ends.
The Dec. 14, 2007, search of the Gonzalez-Nunez home was based on work by McDonnell, the Cujdiks, and Martinez, and is one that Martinez alleges was bogus.
Gonzalez and Nunez were arrested on drug charges, although they say the drugs were planted. Gonzalez also says she was sexually assaulted by one officer.
All charges against her were dismissed at a preliminary hearing. Nunez, however, still faces trial, though it is unlikely to happen soon. City prosecutors have sought delays for any criminal case involving the Cujdiks or the other officers as witnesses.