A 12-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, Richard Nicoletti, 35, is being railroaded.
The train’s engineer is the Dudley Do-Right of the Far Left, Philly D.A. Larry Krasner, whose idea of law enforcement is to persecute law enforcers. Lefty Larry is assisted by craven Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, who is an accessory to the supposed “crime” Nicoletti is accused of committing. It’s like a road-show version of “The Lady and the Tramp,” with Outlaw as the Lady.
The charges against Nicoletti flow from an June 1 incident when protestors swarmed I-676, illegally stopping traffic, creating disorder and committing vandalism. Under orders given by Deputy Commissioner Dennis Wilson, Nicoletti used pepper spray on three protestors, who were sitting on the expressway.
Nicoletti pulled down their face masks to use the spray because the protestors were wearing eye protection to thwart the spray. Pulling down protective gear is part of SWAT training, I am told by an officer who requested anonymity, as well as Nicoletti’s attorney, Fortunato Perri, Jr. But it “looked” bad.
Most media accounts described the protestors as “peaceful,” which was true for the three who were sprayed. The mass media usually neglected to mention that while the trio was peaceful, they were breaking the law. Police were ordered to clear the highway.
Before his police service in the SWAT unit, Nicoletti was an Army Ranger who had been deployed three times to Afghanistan and Iraq, and is expecting his first child in the fall. Prior to his election as D.A., Krasner was a defense attorney who had sued the police department dozens of times. On the night of his primary election victory, his supporters chanted, “F—- the police,” and “No good cops in a racist system.”
His anti-cop disposition led Krasner to file these criminal charges against Nicoletti: simple assault, reckless endangerment, official oppression, and — get this — possession of an instrument of crime.
What? Instrument of crime? You mean the pepper spray?
Yes, the pepper spray that was issued by the police department.
If PPD is issuing “instruments of crime,” shouldn’t Krasner arrest Outlaw? She was in charge.
Official oppression? Nicoletti was obeying the orders of his superior, Perri points out. In an insult to police, Americans and Jews, Krasner says that the Nuremberg trials showed that following orders is not a defense.
But it is, when the orders are legal, as these were. No one disputes that clearing an illegally blocked highway is legal.
“The mayor and the police commissioner authorized the use of tear gas and pepper spray and then abruptly toward the end of June, they apologized for that plan,” says Perri. “At this point, Officer Nicoletti finds himself charged with crimes when his actions were justified under the law.”
Use of pepper spray and tear gas are traditional and legal forms of crowd control. “Anytime you have to use force, it looks bad,” says a police source.
The charges of simple assault and official oppression make a mockery of the law. Is Krasner so deluded that he thinks he can get 12 jurors to rubber stamp his insanity?
Outlaw and Mayor Jim Kenney first backed the police, then did a 180 and condemned the use of chemical agents. Outlaw said she was “disgusted” by its use.
Was she disgusted when she gave permission for police to use tear gas in Portland? She approved the use of chemical agents to break up rioting in the city she served before arriving here. She was criticized by some for that decision, which may have left her a little gun shy. Pun intended.
In a startling development, Deputy Commission Dennis Wilson, the tactical commander of the operation, demoted himself after Kenney and Outlaw apologized for using the legal chemicals to break up the illegal blockage of the major artery.
When was the last time you heard of a police commander demoting himself?
Outlaw’s leadership premise seems to be, “The buck stops just short of me.” If what happened was wrong, Outlaw should be demoted, or at least order herself to work from the Roundhouse or her car, rather than from home. Instead, she accepted Wilson’s demotion and fired Nicoletti. That will go to arbitration and if there is any justice, Nicoletti will be returned to duty.
Aside from his knee-jerk antipathy to cops, could anything else explain Krasner’s actions?
Yes, writes A. Benjamin Mannes on BigTrial.net. There is Nicoletti’s father, also named Richard, and also a Philadelphia cop.
“Krasner represented the decedent in a completely unrelated police shooting involving the elder Nicoletti,” writes Mannes.
Isn’t that interesting?
The entire mess could have been avoided, says one police source. A week before Outlaw was to arrive on Feb. 10, Deputy Commissioner Joseph Sullivan, who had been interviewed for the top cop job, suddenly resigned.
Sullivan, as head of patrol, had the smarts, tactical experience and contacts to have resolved the highway issue, says one police source. But he retired, feeling he had been devalued.
So the enforcement turned into a hot mess and a blameless SWAT officer got shot in the back by his boss, and railroaded by a demented D.A.