Philly police officer allegedly offered to help acquit man for bribe
Officer Jonathan Lazarde was arrested after he allegedly offered to acquit a man he arrested by failing to show up in court in exchange for a $5,000 bribe.
Philadelphia police Officer Jonathan Lazarde, 27, was arrested Thursday for allegedly offering to ensure acquittal for a man he arrested in exchange for a bribe, according to the District Attorney's Office.
The arrest came just over a year after Lazarde received a merit commendation for excellent policework.
Investigators said Lazarde offered to ensure that a man he arrested for firearms violations would be acquitted of the charges in exchange for $3,000.
Officials with the Internal Affairs Division received information about the alleged scheme last month and launched an eight-week investigation into Lazarde's conduct.
They were able to confirm conversations between Lazarde and the defendant through phone and text message records, according to prosecutors.
The defendant then agreed to cooperate with police and continued to communicate with Lazarde regarding the alleged extortion attempt.
Police said the man arranged a meeting and paid Lazarde a bribe of $5,000 in cash, which police had chemically treated with an ultraviolet marker.
In exchange, Lazarde allegedly agreed to not show up in court to testify in the man's case.
Investigators said Internal Affairs Division officers stopped Lazarde as he left the meeting and found him to be in possession of the marked money. Lazarde's hands and pants pocket were also allegedly stained with ultraviolet dye.
Lazarde was three years ago sued in federal court for allegedly punching a woman in the face while arresting her son. A judge this March partially dismissed the suit, which also named several other officers, but upheld the claims against Lazarde.
Two Philadelphia police officers stated during their depositions that Lazarde had a reputation for using excessive force during arrests, according to court documents.
Lazarde in May 2012 received a merit commendation from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Philadelphia Police Department for "highly intelligent and valuable acts of police service," according to a release from the department.
Police said Lazarde, a five-year veteran assigned to the 35th District, resigned from the department on April 21 and turned himself in to the Internal Affairs Division on Thursday morning.
He is charged with bribery, theft by extortion and criminal use of a communication facility.
Prosecutors on Thursday said Lazarde was still being processed by police.