Phila. man falsely arrested and incarcerated for two-plus years sues city and Police Department

By Jon Campisi | Mar 27, 2012

A city man who alleges he was wrongfully arrested for an armed robbery that took place in Northeast Philadelphia in the fall of 2008, and who subsequently sat in jail for a year-and-a-half due to his inability to post bail, has filed a federal civil rights complaint against the City of Philadelphia.

In his complaint, filed March 23 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by attorney Patrick G. Geckle, Jerome Rogers claims he was wrongfully fingered for the robbery of a local gas station by a police officer who had previous dealings with Rogers.

Rogers was arrested for the armed robbery of an Exxon gas station on Cottman Avenue that took place on Sept. 17, 2008 after two detectives prepared an affidavit of probable cause using information gleaned from the officer who claims he identified Rogers in surveillance video taken from the scene of the robbery.

The lawsuit, however, claims that the only eyewitness in the case described a suspect who didn’t appear to match Rogers’ appearance.

The two detectives, however, crafted the affidavit to include a description of Rogers based on the identifying information given by the police officer who viewed the surveillance footage.

“Defendant Officer Rawles’ assertion that Jerome Rogers was the robber depicted in the video clip was false, and the assertion was made with malice and knowledge that it was false,” the lawsuit states, referring to one of the defendants in the case, identified as Lawrence Rawle.

The two detectives named as defendants in the suit are Timothy Tague and Thomas Altimari of the Northeast Detective Division.

According to the complaint, the eyewitness described the robbery suspect as being approximately 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing about 250 pounds with dark complexion.

In writing their affidavit, however, the two detectives described the suspect as being 5 foot 6 inches to 5 foot 10 inches and weighing 375 to 384 pounds with medium complexion, which more accurately describes Rogers’ appearance.

“Defendant Detective Tague instead of truthfully stating the description of the perpetrator as given by the victim instead deliberately and falsely included a description of the perpetrator which match Plaintiff Jerome Rogers,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant Detective Tague knew that those false statements and omissions were material and/or necessary for the finding of probable cause for an arrest warrant to be issued for the arrest of Plaintiff Jerome Rogers.”

The lawsuit claims that Tague made his false statements “deliberately and with a reckless disregard for its truth.”

The complaint alleges that the surveillance video showing the crime would have been too grainy for anyone to accurately make out a suspect, and that Officer Rawle fingered the plaintiff for the crime because his prior dealings with Rogers left him with a “personal animus” toward the man.

After spending two-and-a-half years in pre-trial detention, because of his inability to post bail, Rogers was found not guilty of all counts against him stemming from the robbery following a trial at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the suit states.

The lawsuit blames the two detectives and Officer Rawle for starting the chain of events that led up to Rogers’ lengthy incarceration.

“All Defendants acted with malicious and/or for a purpose other than bringing Plaintiff Jerome Rogers to justice,” the complaint reads.

The suit accuses the defendants of a host of civil rights violations and state law claims.

Rogers seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages as well as reasonable attorney’s fees and other court relief.

He is demanding a jury trial.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-01463-AB.


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