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Ex-cop found guilty of dealing crystal meth, pills in Norristown area

Thereporteronline.com, July 26, 2013

COURTHOUSE — An ex-cop who once carried handcuffs at his side was led away in them Thursday after a jury found him guilty of 16 out of 21 drug-related felonies in Montgomery County Court Thursday.

Jack Pennington of Upper Merion, a former detective sergeant with the Norristown Police Department, was found guilty of delivery of a controlled substance and possession with intent to deliver Percocet and possession with intent to deliver three ounces of crystal methamphetamine in connection with a drug transaction that took place last summer.

“You saw the jury really got a capture of what this defendant’s life was like on June 19, 2012, which was trafficking methamphetamine and pills throughout Norristown,” said Assistant District Attorney Nathan Schadler. “By our calculations, preliminarily, that’s 19 years in mandatory minimum sentences. We’ve very pleased with today’s verdict.”

Prosecutors alleged Pennington used his past position of authority to protect himself and intimidate his “customers,” even carrying his old police badge and bearing Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) license plates on his Cadillac.

During the four-day trial, Schadler and his co-counsel, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Reifsnyder, presented evidence that resulted from a wiretap investigation and led police to the Plymouth Meeting Mall on June 19, 2012, where Pennington met his supplier.

In his closing arguments, Schadler played each profanity-laced recorded phone call over again for the jury. In total, detectives recorded 18 phone calls in just more than six hours. Much of the content of the phone calls concerned meeting up with buyers of crystal meth and Percocet, a highly addictive narcotic prescribed to patients suffering from severe pain.

“The fact that he was operating a car with FOP plates and still had his badge on him makes this even more despicable and disgraceful,” Schadler said. “Justice was done today for law enforcement, for the community and for the residents of Norristown.”

Describing his client as a “cantankerous” man and a “blowhard” who liked to impress women, defense attorney John I. McMahon Jr. asked the jury to find his client not guilty on all charges.

Court documents allege police caught Pennington red-handed in a drug transaction at the mall.

“There’s no question Jack Pennington will not get the Citizen of the Year Award, especially between April, May and June 2012 – a blink of an eye in his 70 years (of age).” McMahon said in his closing argument. “But every citizen in the U.S. — no matter what their job, religion or race — deserves equal justice under the law. He has not been treated the same as somebody who was not a former police officer.”

After the verdict was read, McMahon said he intends to file and appeal.

“To me, this whole case is very tragic,” he said.

Throughout the trial and during his opening statements to the jury, McMahon characterized Pennington’s case as one plagued with “overbroad” charges. He described the district attorney’s office as having “almost limitless power” to proceed on charges with “flimsy evidence.”

In his closing argument, McMahon ran with the theme of a “grandpop” who served his country in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam and then the Norristown Police Department for 29 years.

“He’s a lonely, old man who liked getting attention from some of these younger women. There’s a direct correlation between his fall from grace and that (fact). Now he finds himself here today because it got way out of control,” McMahon said.

But Schadler argued the evidence stacked up against Pennington.

“When the play is cast in hell, you cannot expect angels for actions,” he said.

On the day of his arrest, police recovered three ounces of crystal meth in brown paper bags, more than $6,900 in cash, a fully loaded Smith and Wesson .38-caliber handgun, three cell phones, two digital scales and numerous empty plastic bags typically used for packaging drugs.

Taking the stand in his own defense Wednesday, Pennington denied ever selling meth to anyone.

On one recorded phone call, one of Pennington’s buyers tells him, “I want to go big,” meaning larger amount of meth. He tells her she has to wait until he can see “his guy.”

“From 9 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.) on June 19, the defendant was worried about two things — selling drugs and meeting his ‘guy.’ All in a day’s work for this defendant,” said Schadler.

Following the reading of the verdict, Judge William R. Carpenter remanded Pennington to prison to await sentencing.