2 Philly police officers arrested for alleged obstruction, perjury

A police car drives in Philadelphia

A police car drives in Philadelphia, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Two Philadelphia police officers have been suspended after being charged with giving false statements in separate cases.

Sgt. Michael Kennedy, 49, was federally indicted Wednesday on making false statements to the FBI, obstruction and conspiracy to make a false statement. Separately, Officer James Saxton was arrested by the Philadelphia Police Department’s internal affairs division and charged with perjury.

Both officers were suspended by the police department for 30 days with the intent to fire them, according to a statement from Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw.

Kennedy was accused of stealing money — thought to be proceeds from drug trafficking — from a nightstand during a drug-related search warrant in 2016. The occupants of the apartment had installed security cameras and recorded the alleged theft that was later posted to Instagram.

The charges announced Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney’s office were related to the federal investigation of that alleged theft, though Kennedy was not charged in the theft itself. According to court documents, Kennedy had told investigators he put the money in his pocket to later log it into evidence.

Federal authorities allege he lied several times to investigators during the investigation, then conspired to have another officer lie about the evidence transaction, coaching that officer on what to say to investigators. That second officer was not named in the court documents or charged.

An attorney for Kennedy did not return a phone call from The Associated Press after hours Wednesday. Attorney Michael Drossner declined comment when he was reached earlier by The Philadelphia Inquirer, noting only that Kennedy is on military leave with the U.S. Army. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 declined comment.

In the second unrelated charges announced Wednesday, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced that Officer James Saxton, 34, had been charged for allegedly lying under oath.

Prosecutors allege that in May 2019, Saxton gave false statements during a preliminary hearing when he was sworn under oath. The hearing was for a defendant he had arrested after he claimed to have witnessed a drug transaction.

Investigators allege he falsified arrest documents to seek charges against one of the men. Prosecutors allege that Saxton’s statements in court as well as his written documentation from the arrest were inconsistent with video evidence submitted to the office.

An arrest warrant was issued for Saxton on April 8, and he turned himself in to the Internal Affairs Bureau, according to a news release from the district attorney’s office. He has been charged with perjury, unsworn falsification and official oppression. A representative of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 said the organization “will represent officer Saxton with counsel” but declined further comment on the specific charges.

In its announcement that both men had been suspended late Wednesday, Commissioner Outlaw wrote that the department takes any allegations that officers have acted in a way that would erode the public’s trust seriously.

“In order to earn the public’s trust, it is imperative that our officers be held to the absolute highest of professional standards,” Outlaw wrote in an emailed statement announcing she intended to fire both officers. “The charges against Officer Saxton and Sergeant Kennedy in these two cases are alarming, and there is absolutely no place for this type of conduct in the Philadelphia Police Department.

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