Philadelphia homicide detectives who served with the force in the 1980s offered prison informants sex and drugs in exchange for testimony — true or false — in homicide cases, according to an explosive new report.
The Philadelphia Inquirer released a detailed report on Tuesday documenting a police practice known as “sex for lies,” which one legal expert called a “conscience shock” as a violation of due process.
A dozen current and former inmates described in interviews and court records how now deceased detectives Ernest Gilbert and Larry Gerrard allegedly took them to the police administration building, nicknamed the Roundhouse, and allowed them to have sex with women in interrogation rooms in exchange. for their cooperation in murder cases that the couple were eager to close.
The alleged quid pro quo between the informants and the police has resulted in men serving life sentences for crimes they did not commit, according to some of the inmates interviewed for the article.
A Philadelphia Inquirer uncovers claims that in the 1980s, homicide detectives offered inmates access to sex and drugs in the Police Administration Building, known as the Roundhouse (pictured), in exchange for incriminating statements that would help them close homicide cases
“We went into an interrogation room. They came in with four or five files. And they said, “If you want to help us, we can help you,” said Franklin Lee, a former inmate who was released on parole in 2019 after being sentenced to 35 years in prison on charges of rape and perjury.
Lee said Gilbert and Gerard told him that murder cases were being “cleared,” including the 1981 murder of Leslie Campbell, who was shot dead during a dice game nearby.
Lee said police asked him if he knew a local man named Willie Stokes and his suspected connection to Campbell’s murder.
‘I said, ‘I don’t know about that.’ And they said, “That’s not what we want,” Lee told the paper.
According to the ex-detainee, the detectives ordered him to lie in the stands where Stokes bragged about killing Campbell, and in return they offered him a lenient sentence and access to sex with women and drugs.
Lee initially accepted the offer, which would have released him from prison after just seven years, but he later recanted, claiming at trial that police forced him to make the incriminating statements against Stokes.
Anthony Singleton, another informant Stokes implicated 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 around that time.
Meanwhile, Stokes, 59, who has vehemently maintained his innocence, continues to serve a life sentence even after a witness acquitted him of the shooting and accused police of forcing him to sign an incriminating statement.
According to the revelation, Stokes is one of at least six men still behind bars over testimony from prison informants who allegedly participated in “sex for lies” deals with police decades earlier.
Williams Franklin and Major Tillery, both now in their 70s, have been given life sentences for a 1976 murder in a billiard room after being identified as the killers by informant Emanuel Clait.
In a 2016 affidavit, Clait said detectives dangled him a short 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 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 reportedly threatened with another murder.
A spokesman for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the cases related to allegations of forced testimony.
A Philadelphia Police Department representative would only say that “the department has taken steps to ensure the integrity of investigations remains intact.”
Michael Chitwood, a Philadelphia homicide detective who served with the force in the 1980s, told the investigator that he had heard rumors of informants being offered sex in exchange for statements, but never had proof of this.