Pair pleaded to drugs, robbery after October bust
By MENSAH M. DEAN
Philadelphia Daily News
The large families that packed the courtroom during the sentencing hearing yesterday for two former Philadelphia cops caught in October in a drug sting inadvertently helped to make the prosecutor's point: They knew better.
Not only were Sean Alivera, 31, and his partner, Christopher Luciano, 23, sworn officers and family men, but they came from good families and had no excuse for their conduct, said Assistant District Attorney Erica Wilson.
"Today is a dark day in the CJC [Criminal Justice Center]. It's a dark day for the Police Department. It's a dark day for the community," Wilson said before Common Pleas Judge Lillian Ransom sentenced the ex-cops to 10 to 15 years in prison.
Both men pleaded guilty in April to possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, robbery, kidnapping, conspiracy and official oppression. Ransom also sentenced them to probation after prison: five years for Alivera and seven years for Luciano.
Traffic Division Inspector Christine Coulter and Deputy Police Commissioner Stephen Johnson both testified about how the two defendants' actions had affected the Police Department.
"We'll never know the full toll that this will cost us in community relations," said Coulter, who at the time of the sting was commander of the 25th District in North Philadelphia, making her the officers' supervisor.
"An act of this nature compromises everything we do," said Johnson, who read a letter from Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.
Ramsey said Alivera and Luciano had made all officers' jobs a little more difficult. He asked Ransom to "show no mercy and impose the maximum sentence." That would have been 67 years.
The badges that they "tarnished," Ramsey said, would be melted into lumps of metal.
Attorney Gerald Stein, for Alivera, and attorney Fortunato N. Perri Jr., for Luciano, argued for shorter prison sentences based on the fact that both had waived their rights to preliminary hearings, had pleaded guilty and had lost their jobs and pensions.
"I apologize to my brothers and sisters in law enforcement. I've shamed them; I've shamed the badge," said Alivera, who little resembled his department photo, having gained weight during 10 months in jail under protective custody and on mental-health medication.
"I do come from a good family," Luciano said. "I understand my mistakes, and I apologize to them for making them look bad."
Acting on a tip that a drug dealer was working with cops to rob drug couriers, the Police Department's Internal Affairs unit and the state Attorney General's Office set up the Oct. 4, 2010, sting that took down the officers near American and Cambria streets.
After stopping a car being driven by an undercover cop posing as a drug dealer, the officers illegally searched the car and found 20 pounds of marijuana and $4,000 in cash.
The officers then put the undercover cop in the back of their patrol car and drove him around, allowing two real drug dealers who were working with them to steal the drugs from the car's trunk. Hidden cameras recorded the incident.
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