Philadelphia homicide detectives serving on the force during the 1980s offered jailhouse informants sex and drugs in exchange for testimonies – true or false – in murder cases, according to an explosive new report.
The Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday published a detailed account documenting a police practice known as ‘sex for lies,’ which one legal expert called a ‘shock the conscience’ due process violation.
A dozen current and former inmates described in interviews, court how detectives Ernest Gilbert and Larry Gerrard, who have since died, would bring them to the Police Administration Building, nicknamed the Roundhouse, and allow them to have sex with women in interview rooms in exchange for their cooperation in homicide cases that the pair were eager to close.
The alleged quid-pro-quo arrangement between the informants and the cops has led to men serving life sentences for crimes they did not commit, according to some of the inmates who were interviewed for the article.
A Philadelphia Inquirer expose claims homicide detectives in the 1980s offered inmates access to sex and drugs at the Police Administration Building, known as the Roundhouse (pictured), in exchange for incriminating statements that would help them close murder cases
‘We went in an interrogation room. They came in with four or five files. And they said, “If you will help us, we can help you,”‘ said Franklin Lee, a former inmate who was paroled in 2019 after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for rape and perjury convictions.
Lee said Gilbert and Gerard told him there were ‘frying to clean up’ homicide cases, including the 1981 murder of Leslie Campbell who was shot dead during a neighborhood game of dice.
Lee said the cops asked him if he knew a local man named Willie Stokes and his suspected connection to Campbell’s killing.
‘I said, “I don’t know nothing about that.” And they said, “That’s not what we want.”’ Lee told the paper.
According to the ex-convict, the detectives instructed him to lie on the stand that Stokes bragged about killing Campbell, and in return they offered a lenient sentence and access to sex with women and drugs.
Lee initially accepted the offer, which would have seen him released from prison after just seven years, but he later recanted, claiming at trial that police had coerced him into making the incriminating statements against Stokes.
Anthony Singleton, another informant who implicated Stokes in the murder, also recanted and was sentenced to 40 to 80 years. He died in prison.
Former inmate Craig Jackson claimed to have witnessed detectives taking Singleton, Lee and others to the Roundhouse to have sexual encounters with women.
Meanwhile, Stokes, 59, who has vehemently maintained his innocence, continues serving a life sentence, even after a witness cleared him of the shooting and accused police of forcing him to sign an incriminating statement.
According to the expose, Stokes is one of at least six men who are still behind bars because of testimony from jailhouse informants who allegedly took part in ‘sex for lies’ deals with the police decades prior.
Williams Franklin and Major Tillery, both now in their 70s, have been serving life sentences for a 1976 murder at a pool hall after being identified as the killers by informant Emanuel Clait.
In a 2016, Clait said detectives dangled before him a lenient sentence and the prospect of sexual encounters with his four girlfriends in exchange for testimony against Tillery and Franklin.
Before his death last year, Clait said that he was coached by prosecutors and detectives, including Gilbert and Garrett, to lie about Tillery and Franklin’s involvement in the murder. When he tried to recant, he was allegedly threatened with being framed for another murder.
A spokesperson for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office would not comment on the cases concerning allegations of coerced testimony.
A Philadelphia Police Department representative would only say that ‘the Department has taken steps to ensure the integrity of investigations remain intact.’
A Philadelphia homicide detective who was on the force during the 1980s told the Inquirer that he heard rumors of informants being offered sex in exchange for statements but never had proof of that.