PHILADELPHIA, PA – Law Enforcement Today reported previously on the riots that occurred in Philadelphia and the state and local leaders response afterward.
Although both Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw initially defended the use of chemical agents to disperse the crowd, they later recanted and apologized for doing so.
Outlaw also referenced possible discipline that would occur as a result of officers using the chemical agents, even though they were directed to do so by former Deputy Police Commissioner Wilson.
Philadelphia District Attorney, Larry Krasner, pushed to quickly criminally charge at least one SWAT team member and Police Officer, Richard Nicoletti, as a result of the use of the chemical agent.
Officer Nicoletti was one of the officers seen on video walking down Vine Street Expressway on June 1st and attempting to clear the roadway of people refusing to leave. After the protesters were given several lawful orders to disperse as the vehicular traffic was at a standstill because people were kneeling in the roadway, they still refused to leave.
Today, Philly DA Larry Krasner announced 10 charges against Officer Richard Paul Nicoletti after the case was referred from Philly PD's Internal Affairs Division.https://t.co/kL8AGoSizz https://t.co/NB2QDQ8Hs0
— PA Corruption Blog (@CorruptionPa) July 22, 2020
That is when Fortunato Perri, Jr, Nicoletti’s attorney, said Nicoletti was ordered to remove the protesters with chemical agents.
He says that the criminal charges Nicoletti is facing- simple assault, reckless endangerment, official oppression, and possession of an instrument of a crime- stem from him following orders, which were to use chemical agents to clear the roadway.
John McNesby, the President of the Fraternal Order Police Lodge 5, flatly alleges that Krasner is working hard to push forward his “anti-police agenda.”
“This double standard of justice is unacceptable to our brave police officers who work tirelessly to keep our city safe.”
— Mike Neilon (@MikeNeilon) July 22, 2020
Fox news reported on McNesby’s concern that there is a push to criminally charge police officers for what he feels are them simply doing their jobs, while leaving the protesters to run amok.
Krasner responded to the defense posed by Nicoletti and his attorney that he was following the orders given to him by the command staff of the agency.
“I was following orders is not a defense to commit a crime. That’s what, the Nuremberg defense? That doesn’t work.
“The larger message is that we are restoring trust between communities and the officers who are there to serve them, by making sure everyone understands that this is a city, that this is a country, that still believes in equality.
“There’s going to be justice that is even-handed and no longer at the service of politics.”
A spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office responded regarding the claim that rioters are not getting charged.
Former Philly SWAT officer Richard Nicoletti has been charged with assault for pepper-spray use during I-676 protest. https://t.co/QLVjP3xePT
— PhillyVoice (@thephillyvoice) July 22, 2020
Jane Roh told WCAU that “hundreds” of persons have been arrested and charged with crimes resulting from the riots in the area since the murder of George Floyd. Roh appears to be trying to allude that they are being just as tough on the rioters and protesters as they are law enforcement.
Nicoletti’s arrest and pending termination from the agency is not the first-time criminal charges have been filed against a law enforcement officer recently for acts conducted during the protests and riots.
On June 1st, former Officer Joseph Bologna, Jr was in the area of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway dealing with the protests there. While he was dealing with the protesters, he is seen pushing a protester back and then striking another with his baton.
According to the video in this icident, former Officer Bologna was attempting to help another officer take a subject into custody who was resisting by pulling away.
While his attention was on that, another person came out from the crowd grabbing Bologna. Bologna reacted and struck the person with the baton.
Regardless if criminal charges are warranted in either case, Krasner clearly has set the stage that he is willing and able to follow through on pursuing criminal charges against police.
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The Philadelphia District Attorney, Larry Krasner, issued a statement Wednesday morning detailing charges filed by his office against a police officer. These charges were for actions of the officer, captured on video, during a Black Lives Matter protest on Interstate 676 back in early June.
According to ABC 6, Krasner said:
“Richard Paul Nicoletti, 35, ‘assaulted three protesters’ with OC spray, or pepper spray, while they were kneeling on the highway.
“Nicoletti turned himself in to authorities Wednesday morning, sources told Action News.”
Philadelphia DA announces charges against police officer for interstate protest pepper spraying https://t.co/whfiBC3oQe
— WTAE-TV Pittsburgh (@WTAE) July 22, 2020
The DA stated that Officer Nicoletti has been charged with one count of possession of an instrument of crime, and three counts each of simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and official oppression.
It remains to be determined if a charge of an instrument of crime charge will stick if the officer can prove that he was following orders.
FOP President John McNesby released a statement saying that the FOP “will provide an appropriate defense for Officer Nicoletti as this process moves forward.”
ABC 6 reported:
“Nicoletti was among the state and local authorities who responded to a large group of protesters who had walked onto I-676 and stopped traffic.
At approximately 5:00 p.m., the SWAT unit, including Nicoletti, wearing the full SWAT uniform and gas masks, arrived in the westbound lanes of 676 near the 20th Street overpass, investigators said.”
Video of the incident shows what Krasner detailed. However, no footage has been released showing what led up to the officer’s decision to deploy the spray on the protesters.
District Attorney Larry Krasner wrote in an emailed news release:
“The complaint alleges that Officer Nicoletti broke the laws he was sworn to uphold and that his actions interfered with Philadelphians’ and Americans’ peaceful exercise of their sacred constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.
“The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office will not make excuses for crimes committed by law enforcement that demean the democratic freedoms so many Americans have fought and died to preserve.”
But Nicoletti’s attorney tells another side of that story.
Fortunato Perri said:
“Richard Nicoletti is being charged with crimes for simply following orders. His unit was ordered by commanders to clear the highway with the approved use of tear gas and pepper spray.
“The city’s leadership was given the opportunity to apologize for approving the orders and use of force but Nicoletti finds himself fired and charged with crimes.”
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said that what she saw on the videos was disgusting, and has also apologized publicly for authorizing the use of pepper spray for the purpose of crowd control and disbursement.
— Christie Ileto (@Christie_Ileto) June 25, 2020
During that apology speech, Outlaw said:
“To that end, effective immediately, I’m declaring a categorical moratorium on the use of tear gas for the dispersal or control of crowds, which includes any persons who are peacefully assembling or passively resisting.”
Outlaw also said “the only time officers should consider deploying tear gas” is when confronted with an armed and dangerous individual.
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