Inquirer Story On Wrongful Convictions By Philadelphia Drug Unit Discusses Beasley Firm Lawsuit

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer quotes Beasley firm attorney Max Kennerly discussing the nearly two dozen civil rights lawsuits filed against the City of Philadelphia alleging that police officers within the Philadelphia Police Department’s narcotics field unit planted drugs on innocent people and fabricated evidence for drugs and firearms arrests. The report specifically discusses a lawsuit the Beasley firm filed, along with attorney John F. Rooney, V, on behalf of a brother and sister who had cocaine, heroin, and marijuana planted on them:

Attorney Maxwell S. Kennerly said his clients, Brian Hill and his sister Twania, felt they had no chance of getting fair trials on the initial arrest charges.

Hill was found guilty of drug and gun charges, spent four years in prison, and now is in a halfway house awaiting release.

His sister pleaded guilty to drug charges and was sentenced to two years of probation. Both are seeking to have those convictions overturned.

Kennerly said the city paid less than $100,000 total to resolve the suit. He said his clients wanted to resolve the suit quickly and “get on with their lives.”

“Nobody is getting a windfall out of this,” said Kennerly, of the Beasley Firm L.L.C.

He predicted other lawsuits would be filed against the squad as people who were arrested learn that they can get settlements, even though no officer has been indicted.

John F. Rooney, V, will continue to represent Brian Hill in his post-conviction proceedings to overturn the conviction. Twania Hill is represented by the Philadelphia Public Defenders’ office.

There’s a reason that civil rights lawsuits like this tend to settle quickly: the convictions leave a black mark on the innocent person’s reputation, and so, until those convictions are overturned - which might not happen for several years - the best the person can do to start repairing their reputation with their community and with potential employers is to settle their civil lawsuit. The payment from the City gives them a confirmation to show to the world that the City itself recognizes there’s a problem with their conviction and is trying to make amends.

The federal investigation into Police Officers Jeffrey Cujdik, Richard Cujdik, Robert McDonnell, Thomas Tolstoy and others in the Narcotics Field Unit continues to this day. As described by Mr. Kennerly, many victims do not realize that they can file a lawsuit at this time, and additional press coverage will likely prompt more claims. The officers under investigation were involved in literally hundreds, potentially thousands, of narcotics arrests.