In 23 years as a Philadelphia police officer, Tyrone Wiggins garnered awards for valor, was shot making an arrest, and taught karate to thousands of children and adults as an eighth-degree black-belt
at his own school.
On Tuesday, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury decided that Wiggins, 51, had a far darker side. It found him guilty of sexually assaulting a female student for six years, starting when she was 12.
The panel of seven women and five men deliberated almost two days before convicting Wiggins of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, statutory sexual assault, and corrupting a minor.
Wiggins was acquitted of rape. Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti explained that the rape count was "age-specific": The jury would have had to find that he had vaginal intercourse with the victim before she was 13.
Wiggins, who retired from the department one day before his November 2009 arrest, showed no reaction to the verdict, nor did his wife.
However, the victim, now 25 and a Philadelphia police officer, began crying as soon as the first guilty sounded. By the end, her shoulders shook.
Afterward, she disappeared with a friend into an anteroom, and loud sobs could be heard for about 10 minutes.
Later, she spoke briefly with reporters, thanking the jury, the Police Department, and others who believed her.
"I want to tell anyone who is a potential victim to come forward," she said. "There is hope, and there is someone who will believe you."
Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd immediately revoked Wiggins' bail and ordered him taken into custody pending sentencing March 25.
Defense attorney Scott P. Sigman said he would file appeal motions.
Wiggins could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison. Sigman said he would focus his arguments on Wiggins' reputation as a police officer and karate instructor.
"He took a bullet serving the City of Philadelphia," Sigman said. "He taught thousands of people karate and turned out 216 black belts, and not one other student ever complained about him."
Wiggins had testified in his own defense, denying ever touching the victim. He said he felt betrayed by someone he had mentored, but who became increasingly troubled and involved with drugs.
He labeled her sexual allegations revenge because he told officials about her alleged drug use when she applied to the Police Academy.
Cipolletti said Wiggins' drug accusations - including what the prosecutor called a scripted audiotape in which Wiggins elicited incriminating information from the victim - were desperate efforts to control a woman he felt was drifting away.
With no DNA or other forensic evidence, the jury had to weigh the credibility of Wiggins, a polished and poised man with a commanding presence, and the victim, a soft-spoken woman who barely looked at her former mentor without breaking down.
Cipolletti said Wiggins targeted her when she was 10 and her parents had enrolled her and her brother in his karate class at the Olney Recreation Center.
The prosecutor described a two-year "grooming process" during which Wiggins insinuated himself into her family and became a self-described "godfather" to the girl and her brother.
Several days after showing her a pornographic video, the victim testified, Wiggins drove her in his van to Fairmount Park. There, she said, Wiggins exposed himself and had her perform a sex act on him. Within a year, she said, they had begun intercourse.
"He told me I was his girlfriend and he was in love with me," she said. "He told others I was his daughter."