Originally published on February 7, 2015, at NationofChange.org
Two former Philadelphia police officers were sentenced to prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to robbing drug dealers, falsifying arrest reports, and selling heroin while on duty. After the FBI arrested Officer Jonathan Garcia for selling heroin while in uniform, Garcia informed on his partner in the hopes of reducing his sentence. Although Garcia began cooperating with authorities early on in the investigation, he received a harsher sentence due to the fact that his partner never sold heroin with him.
Between December 2009 and June 2012, Philadelphia police officers Jonathan Garcia and Sydemy Joanis devised a plan to arrest suspected drug dealers, rob them, and falsify seizure reports by failing to disclose the correct amount of money or drugs confiscated during the arrests. After becoming partners in 2009, Garcia and Joanis seized a large amount of marijuana during an arrest. Garcia convinced Joanis to falsify their report and keep half of the marijuana for themselves. After that initial theft, the officers developed a pattern of robbing drug dealers and lying on their reports.
“I had a decision to make,” Joanis recalled. “Whether I was going to turn someone in that I cared about, or just hope that no one ever found out. I didn’t have the courage to do the right thing.”
Garcia and Joanis often accused suspected drug dealers of loitering before frisking, arresting, and robbing them under color of authority. They also used a confidential source to assist in their robberies. After giving money to their source, the crooked cops instructed him to buy drugs from a dealer and then leave a small amount of the purchased narcotics on the floorboard of the car. After their accomplice exited the dealer’s vehicle, the officers would perform a traffic stop in their patrol car.
Seeing the drugs in plain view on the floorboard, the officers would arrest the dealer and steal whatever cash or drugs found in his possession. After splitting the stolen goods amongst themselves, Garcia and Joanis would lie on the police report claiming they had found little or no cash or drugs during the arrest. They compensated their accomplice with money and drugs.
“You start thinking there’s no justice,” Garcia rationalized. “The criminals, they make bail. They get away scot-free. It warped my mind a little bit. Like, this is all just a game.”
On June 20, 2012, Garcia was arrested after repeatedly selling heroin to an FBI informant. Wearing his uniform in broad daylight, Garcia was caught selling drugs across the street from the 17th Police District station in South Philadelphia. A month later, Garcia was officially dismissed from the police force and began cooperating with investigators. Hoping to reduce his sentence, Garcia betrayed his partner and informed on him.
Joanis was arrested on June 4, 2013. A month later, Garcia pleaded guilty to distribution of heroin, conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, attempted robbery, and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. He admitted to stealing roughly $4,000 from suspected drug dealers along with crack cocaine and oxycodone.
On February 11, 2014, Joanis pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, attempted robbery, and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. On Wednesday, Joanis was sentenced to over 5 years in prison while Garcia received a sentence of over 17 years. Although Garcia had turned in his partner, he received a harsher sentence for the heroin distribution. Joanis claims he never knew nor participated in selling drugs with Garcia.
While addressing Garcia, U.S. District Court Judge Legrome Davis stated, “Something very serious is missing inside of you. You never should have been a cop. You never had it inside of you.”
After Judge Davis pointed out to Joanis that his loyalty had been misplaced in a partner who had ratted him out, Joanis responded, “There’s no honor among thieves, your honor.”