Dirty Philly Cop’s Actions Lead to Court Agreeing to Free Man Convicted of Murder in 2016

PC: ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer at The Philadelphia Inquirer

By The Vanguard

PHILADELPHIA, PA – A man convicted of homicide in 2016 was released from custody here this week by the Court of Common Pleas after the court agreed with the prosecution to dismiss the charge because of insufficient reliable evidence to retry him for murder, according to a statement by the District Attorney’s Office.

The DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit, reviewing convictions tied to former Philadelphia homicide detective Philip Nordo, said Neftali Velasquez’s “constitutional rights were violated in multiple ways during his 2016 trial for the 2012 murder of Domingo Rivera, during which all three witnesses presented by the Commonwealth recanted their earlier statements to police implicating Velasquez.”

Nordo’s misconduct and efforts to “illegally detain a key witness, whom he later interviewed, was not disclosed to the defense prior to trial,” and last March the court granted Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) relief, vacating Velasquez’s conviction and ordering a new trial.

Former detective Nordo, convicted of rape, official oppression, and related crimes in 2022, interviewed the key witness, said the DA’s office, noting “one of the witnesses told prosecutors pre-trial that she had not actually seen the shooter’s face, while another one of the witnesses who recanted at trial had a prior conviction for murder, and other undisclosed serious criminal charges.”

The CIU said Velazquez’s conviction is “one of dozens investigated by the CIU as part of a review of all convictions tied to former detective Nordo. To date, the review has produced seven exonerations and three resentencings, with new trials or judicial decisions pending for five defendants following advocacy by the CIU that PCRA relief was warranted.”

“The family of Mr. Rivera has been revictimized,” CIU Supervisor Assistant District Attorney Michael Garmisa said. “A system that allows a corrupt individual like Philip Nordo to operate within the criminal justice system for decades is one that – as the Rivera family notes – fails victims time and again.”

Garmisa added the family of Domingo Rivera “expressed their enduring grief over his murder, and their anguish that the irreparably tainted 2016 arrest and prosecution had deprived them of a measure of peace knowing the accused was convicted and would not hurt someone else’s loved one.”

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