Former Philly cop, DeCoatsworth withdraws guilty plea to prove innocence

 Former Philadelphia police officer Richard DeCoatsworth, who was hailed as a hero and sat next to Michelle Obama at a presidential address will stand trial on charges he raped two prostitutes at gunpoint. The November trial comes after the 28-year-old DeCoatsworth withdrew a plea to reduced charges Tuesday, April 1, 2014. (AP file  Photo/Jason Minick)

Former Philadelphia police officer Richard DeCoatsworth, who was hailed as a hero and sat next to Michelle Obama at a presidential address will stand trial on charges he raped two prostitutes at gunpoint. The November trial comes after the 28-year-old DeCoatsworth withdrew a plea to reduced charges Tuesday, April 1, 2014. (AP file Photo/Jason Minick)

Former Philadelphia cop Richard DeCoatsworth will stand trial on charges that he forced two women to take drugs and perform sexual acts.

Before withdrawing his guilty plea Tuesday, the 28-year-old told a city judge that he is an “innocent man” who needs to “demonstrate my innocence.”

In late February, DeCoatsworth pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution, possession with intent to distribute narcotics and simple assault.

Under the open plea deal, nearly 30 additional charges were dropped, including kidnapping and rape.

All charges will now be reinstated.

DeCoatsworth’s attorney, A. Charles Peruto, said his client has a “healthy chance” at being acquitted of, what is now, a long list of charges.

“The Commonwealth has to rely on the credibility of paid informants and on prostitutes who are claiming that they were raped,” said Peruto. “I think we have one leg up automatically when you have witnesses like that.”

Peruto said he advised his client take the “beautiful plea bargain” and acknowledged that dropping it is a risky move.

Following Tuesday’s hearing, Assistant District Attorney Ashley Lynam, who is prosecuting the case, declined to discuss in detail the unusual turn of events.

“As a prosecutor on the case, my thoughts don’t matter,” she said. “The defendant had a right to withdraw his guilty plea. The judge certainly allowed that.”

DeCoatsworth will wait for his trial – slated to start Nov. 3 – behind bars without bail. He’s been in jail since his arrest last May.

Before being charged, DeCoatsworth was considered a hero.

In 2007, while still a rookie officer, DeCoatsworth chased down a West Philadelphia man who shot him in the face during a traffic stop.

The suspect was caught and later convicted.

In 2009, DeCoatsworth was invited to attend President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. He sat next to first lady Michelle Obama.

DeCoatsworth retired from the Philadelphia Police Department on disability in 2011.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.