A former Philadelphia homicide detective convicted of sexually assaulting witnesses and informants throughout his 20-year career possibly will spend the rest of his life behind bars as a penalty for his crimes.
The court claimed the officer “groomed” his male victims to engage in sexual acts while extracting information from them as investigated various cases.
On Dec. 15, a Philadelphia judge sentenced Philip Nordo, 56, to 24.5 to 49 years in prison after he was found guilty of rape, sexual assault, stalking, official oppression, theft by deception, and related charges earlier this year, NBC 10 reported.
A jury found in addition to having inappropriate sexual relations with and lying on the victims. He also stole $20,000 in crime reward money that was being offered in a case about the 2015 murder of an off-duty officer named Moses Walker.
Evidence revealed he spent the stolen loot on one of his victims.
A 2019 grand jury report alleged the former detective “groomed” the victims while working on cases and created a climate that made those men “more susceptible to his sexually assaultive and/ or coercive behavior,” which lasted over a decade.
The ex-officer’s defense attorney Michael van der Veen said Nordo’s accusers could not be trusted because they are “criminals, liars, and thieves” whose accounts were inconsistent and lacked corroborating evidence.
One of those people was Milique Wagner.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Wagner, then 21, was arrested and interrogated by Nordo regarding the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Braheem King on Feb. 10, 2010. The then-detective was determined to associate Wagner with Reafeal Fields and Kelvin Bryant, who were co-defendants in the case of King’s killing.
Nordo used a man named Amine Payne to give a statement that linked Wagner to the other men.
The North Philly native was vulnerable. In addition to experiencing the loss of his mother when he was 9 and witnessing his best friend get shot in front of him when he was 19, he started to self-medicate with drugs (marijuana, opioids, and cough syrup) to deal with his mental trauma. The legal stacks were against him.
It also made him an easy mark for his sexual escapades. After the initial questioning about the King case, Nordo introduced another topic, according to Wagner. He probed the “suspect” about his desire to shoot porn.
“He says … he has a porn ring from out in New Jersey,” Wagner recalled, describing the detective as slick and sneaky as he testified that Nordo asked him, “Would [I] ever consider doing guy-on-guy porn?”
Later Payne would testify that he never met Wagner, his statement was fabricated and admitted he was the one who murdered King.
He said during the murder trial, he had tried to confess earlier but was shut down.
“When you said these gentlemen did it, I told you that I did it,” he said. “You don’t want to listen. I told y’all about the shootings, the murders that I committed, and you want to sit here and blame these people. For what, I don’t know.”
Fields said he knew Nordo coerced various informants to identify him as a killer in King’s death.
“I was wrongfully convicted of a crime that I didn’t commit, all because of a dirty detective named Philip Nordo and the corrupt and broken system,” he said, after being in prison for more than 10 years.
Another one of the witnesses against Nordo that van der Veen tried to discredit testified that the officer raped him in a Chinatown hotel room.
“Sadly, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office had an opportunity to stop Nordo in his tracks as early as 2005, before he became a homicide detective and committed these crimes,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, whose office prosecuted Nordo, said. “At that time, the DAO was provided with very strong evidence of sexual misconduct by Nordo toward a young man he was interrogating and disregarded it at a time when the Philly DAO was not known for holding law enforcement accountable, to put it mildly.”
Nordo was fired in 2017.
According to Krasner, the conviction compromised “dozens” of criminal cases and has resulted in multiple exonerations since the summer.
“This is someone who we now know was profoundly corrupt and was willing to turn things any which way to get what he wanted,” Krasner said. “So, we have to essentially disregard anything that he did. We have to regard it as being suspect. And then, we have to look at what evidence remains. Sometimes, that evidence is compelling.”
The Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) has been reviewing about 100 of Nordo’s cases and, according to CIU supervisor Michael Garmisa, identified approximately a dozen that should be vacated.
One case that Garmisa discovered was not going to be easy to vacate was Marvin Hill, who allegedly had almost identical improprieties as the Wagner case. After the DA’s office presented an analysis of video evidence, which they believed exonerated Hill, Judge Barbara McDermott still decided to uphold her original guilty verdict.
The prosecution had other charges they had hoped to try him for. However, after one of Nordo’s accusers went missing, the office had to drop more than half of the counts initially filed.