Pubdate: Thu, 05 Feb 2015
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Copyright: 2015 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Jeremy Roebuck
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


Jonathan Garcia Is to Serve More Than 17 Years for Crimes That 
Included Robbing Drug Dealers, Selling Heroin.

As corrupt police officers go, Jonathan Garcia was more brazen than most.

Less than two years after joining the force, he was making illegal 
traffic stops and stealing cash seized from drug dealers. He sold 
heroin, often in uniform and in broad daylight, across the street 
from the 17th District station in South Philadelphia.

And, as he explained to a federal Judge Wednesday, he did all of this 
thinking that was just the way the system worked in a city with a 
history of dirty cops.

"You start thinking there's no justice," Garcia said. "The criminals, 
they make bail. They get away scot-free. It warped my mind a little 
bit. Like, this is all just a game."

His crimes earned Garcia, 26, more than 17 years in prison Wednesday 
and dragged his former partner, Sydemy Joanis, down with him. Joanis, 
who was indicted in 2013 after Garcia informed on him, received a 
sentence of five years and three months behind bars.

The two are only the latest in a string of officers to run afoul in 
recent years of an aggressive joint FBI-Philadelphia Police 
Department task force aimed at rooting out corruption on the force.

But as U.S. District Judge Legrome D. Davis struggled to comprehend 
how the men turned to crime, it seemed clear he drew a sharp 
distinction between the conduct of each of the one-time partners.

"Something very serious is missing inside of you," he told Garcia. 
"You never should have been a cop. You never had it inside of you." 
Later, he described the officers' view of a corruption-laden police 
force as "jaundiced."

When it was Joanis' turn before the bench, the judge took a softer 
tone: "I think you lost your way. I think you were weak. I think you 
had a false sense of loyalty."

For his part, Joanis said he quickly developed a strong bond with 
Garcia when they became partners in 2009. Both young officers, they 
patrolled Point Breeze and Grays Ferry, and were jarred by the 
frequent reports of their colleagues being charged with crimes.

"I never thought it would be me," Joanis told the judge. He described 
the first time he and Garcia crossed a legal line together.

The pair had seized some marijuana, he said, and Garcia suggested 
they keep half of it and falsify their report.

"All cops get caught," Joanis recalled telling Garcia. Garcia's 
response, Joanis told the judge: "No, they don't. Everybody's stealing."

Joanis recalled struggling with what to do next. "I had a decision to 
make," he said. "Whether I was going to turn someone in that I cared 
about, or just hope that no one ever found out. I didn't have the 
courage to do the right thing."

That incident was not among the charges, including conspiracy and 
robbery, to which both men pleaded guilty last year. But it was the 
start of their criminal behavior.

Between 2009 and 2012, the pair committed five robberies or attempted 
robberies of drug dealers, netting more than $4,000 in cash that they 
left off their seizure reports.

Three were holdups of people they knew to be drug dealers. In a 
fourth, they enlisted an informant to buy drugs from a street dealer 
before they arrested the dealer and confiscated his money. The last 
was the June 2012 FBI sting that led to Garcia's arrest.

Joanis was not alleged to have known about or participated in 
Garcia's drug dealing, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Brenner, 
but shared culpability for not reporting his partner and pocketing 
some of the proceeds of their robberies.

"Law enforcement can't successfully combat crime if police officers 
are criminals themselves or if police officers are actively thwarting 
the due administration of justice," he said.

Since their arrests, both Garcia and Joanis have cooperated with 
authorities, according to court filings.

Garcia has since testified before at least one grand jury 
investigating police corruption. Joanis has agreed to participate in 
an educational video produced by the Police Department in the hope of 
warning other officers off corrupt activity.

"I never thought it would be me," Joanis said in court Wednesday. "I 
wanted to be accepted by [my partner]. I wanted to think that despite 
this, our partnership could go forward, we could still fight crime 
and still advance our careers."

When Davis pointed out that Joanis' loyalty might have been misplaced 
in a partner who would later inform on him in hopes for reducing his 
sentence, Joanis only shrugged.

He said: "There's no honor among thieves, your honor."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom