Ex-Philadelphia police officer sentenced to 15 to 40 years after guilty pleas in sex assault cases

Patrick Heron, 54, entered the pleas Friday after reaching an agreement with prosecutors in advance of a trial on more than 200 counts.

A close-up of a police car.

File photo: A Police vehicle near the scene of a shooting in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A former Philadelphia police officer has been sentenced to 15 to 40 years in state prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting women and girls — often while in uniform and in the back of his police vehicle.

Patrick Heron, 54, entered the pleas Friday after reaching an agreement with prosecutors in advance of a trial on more than 200 counts that included child sex assault, child pornography, kidnapping and related offenses, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Jane Roh, spokesperson for the district attorney’s office, said victims who are now spared the trauma of a trial welcomed the guilty plea. Defense attorney Anthony List also said he hoped the plea would spare the victims the anguish of having to testify, and added “hopefully everyone can move on.”

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Heron, who retired from the force in 2019, was initially accused last year of posing as an active officer to lure girls. Investigators said they later found photos and videos indicating predatory behavior spanning years and including dozens of often vulnerable young women and girls including those who had run away, been arrested or struggled with addiction.

Lyandra Retacco, chief of the prosecutors’ special investigations unit, said the crimes occurred from 2005 through last year, and Heron met many victims while on the force. She said investigators have identified 48 victims, though many of their identities remain unknown, and more likely haven’t come forward.

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