The disgraced former Philadelphia police officer who stole $825 from a business where a fellow officer had been fatally shot was ordered on Thursday to repay the cash, along with a $5,000 fine, and serve five years probation.
Kenneth Crockett, 57, of the Far Northeast, avoided possible jail time for his misdemeanor theft conviction, although his former boss, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, wanted Common Pleas Court Judge Earl W. Trent to throw the book at the cop-turned-crook.
Trent could have sentenced Crockett to five years in state prison. Assistant District Attorney Terri Domsky, the lead prosecutor, sought a one- to two-year prison term.
Last October, a Philadelphia jury convicted Crockett of theft and acquitted him of receiving stolen property.
Crockett, who was a 27-year veteran of the police force and member of the K-9 Unit at the time, grabbed the cash from an unlocked safe at Pat’s Café in Northwood on July 27, 2010, while on duty and investigating a burglary alarm in the area of Castor Avenue and Arrott Street.
Four years earlier, Officer Gary Skerski, the community relations officer for the 15th district, died in the aftermath of an armed robbery at the same taproom. The robber blasted Skerski with a shotgun as the officer attempted to enter the business and interrupt the heist.
The July 27, 2010, alarm actually sounded at an auto repair business next to Pat’s. Two offers responded at about 4 a.m., followed soon by a third. They found no evidence of a break-in at the repair shop, but noticed that a basement door at Pat’s had been left open.
They went into the taproom via the open basement and made their way to the main floor. The place seemed empty, so they tried to contact the owner, Pat Holloran, and his security company to report the open door. In the meantime, they sat at the bar and turned on a television. One officer poured what Ramsey later described as a non-alcoholic beverage from a soda gun.
All the while, surveillance cameras filmed the cops.
A local television station obtained the film and broadcast it a couple days later, causing public outrage. Not only did it look like the then-unidentified cops were partying while on duty, the video also appeared to show one of them grabbing several bundles from a safe behind the bar and stuffing them into his utility belt.
The cops never reached Holloran that night, so they wrote a note, left it on the bar and exited Pat’s after about 45 minutes. Detectives recovered the surveillance tape while doing follow-up investigation on the missing cash.
Ramsey later cleared two of the three officers of criminal wrongdoing, although he scolded them for taking the soft drink. Crockett had apparently acted alone in the theft, waiting until his two colleagues had exited the room before stooping behind the bar to reach into the unlocked safe.
During Crockett’s trial, he denied taking the money, which was never found. A defense attorney claimed Crockett had stooped to pick up some “personal effects” that had fallen from his vest, according to the Daily News.
Jurors didn’t buy the excuse.
At the sentencing hearing, the defense sought probation. And even Holloran asked Trent via letter not to send Crockett to jail — only that he be made to pay restitution, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Ramsey wrote asking for the maximum prison sentence.
Crockett is a first-time offender who lost his job shortly after his arrest and lost his police pension as a result of the conviction. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org