Ruderman Responds to Inquirer Takedown on Facebook

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Wendy Ruderman, one-half of the Daily News‘ Pulitzer-winning duo whose work has come under scrutiny by the Philadelphia Inquirer, took to Facebook today to rebut allegations she and partner Barbara Laker behaved unethically during the reporting of the “Tainted Justice” series on police corruption.

“I’ve been advised over and over again NOT to speak out or go on Facebook or Twitter,” she wrote. “But to sit quiet, at least for me, feels cowardice and wrong.”

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3 Reasons the Case Against “Tainted Justice” Doesn’t Add Up

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Something doesn’t add up.

The Inquirer on Friday did something pretty unusual: It printed a takedown of the reporting behind the Daily News’ Pulitzer-winning “Tainted Justice” series of reports about police corruption in 2009. The underlying question in the report: Why had Thomas Tolstoy — accused of sexually assaulting women on the job, as well as sundry other bits of corruption — been able to stay free and even keep his police job in the years since?

The Inky’s answer? Ethically questionable behavior on the part of the Daily News reporters, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, may have compromised the case. Specifically, the two are alleged to have offered financial assistance to “Naomi,” a key witness who said Tolstoy jammed his fingers into her vagina during a 2008 drug raid. Naomi’s real identity has never been revealed publicly.

Commissioner Charles Ramsey, at least, is making the case that the reporters’ behavior was so egregious that Tolstoy — a bad cop by the commissioner’s estimation —  won’t get the punishment he might deserve. “It’s not a question of whether misconduct occurred. I think we have an investigation that does demonstrate that,” Ramsey told KYW Newsradio, “but this could very well be exploited by defense counsel when it comes to creating some doubt in the mind of an arbitrator.”

Here are three reasons — drawn only from the public reporting on this issue — that the “bad reporting kept a bad cop on the streets” story doesn’t quite make sense.

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Is “Tainted Justice” Now Tainted?

It would appear that an Inquirer story killed last month by publisher Gerry Lenfest is back from the dead.

The Inquirer today has a lengthy front-page story examining why Thomas Tolstoy, a Philadelphia Police officer accused of sexually assaulting women in the Daily News’ Pulitzer-winning “Tainted Justice” series in 2009, is still on the force.

The Inky’s answer? A main witness gave federal officials inconsistent accounts of her encounter with Tolstoy. And her already shaky credibility was hurt when she told federal officials that Daily News reporters Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker had helped with bills and bought her gifts.

If true, investigators said, Ruderman and Laker could be seen as “enticing” the victim’s story, harming her credibility in court. And journalistic ethics generally prohibit giving gifts to sources. Ruderman said she did buy a bag of groceries for the woman, but that was the extent of the help.

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Sarah Jessica Parker to Star in TV Show Based on Daily News Pulitzer

Ruderman and Laker (left); Parker (Shutterstock)

Ruderman and Laker (left); Parker (Shutterstock)

We already knew that Busted, the great true-crime dirty-cop book by Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman, was a Philly classic. Can it be a TV classic?

We’re going to find out. Sarah Jessica Parker has signed on to star in a “limited series” TV show based on the book, which in turn is based on the Pulitzer-winning reporting the two journos did on the “Tainted Justice” series of Daily News articles that uncovered corruption on a Philly Police narcotics squad.

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“Tainted Justice” Police Officer Fired. Will It Take?

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has fired Jeffrey Cujdik — the narcotics squad officer who was at the heart of the Daily NewsPulitzer-winning “Tainted Justice” series — just weeks after officials announced no charges would be brought in the case. Three other narcotics squad officers are keeping their jobs, but will be temporarily suspended, then transferred from the narcotics squad.

One question: Will Cujdik stay fired? That’s not a sure thing: NBC Philadelphia reported last year that an arbitrator had reversed nine out of every 10 firings that Ramsey had made for cause — it’s really hard to lose your job as a police officer in Philadelphia. Three reasons to be skeptical, then, that Cujdik’s firing means he’s leaving the squad:

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Cops in Pulitzer-Winning ‘Tainted Justice’ Series Won’t Face Charges

dailynews Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman won the 2010 Pulitzer for a series, called Tainted Justice, in the Daily News. The duo was awarded the prize by the Pulitzer jury “for their resourceful reporting that exposed a rogue police narcotics squad, resulting in an FBI probe and the review of hundreds of criminal cases tainted by the scandal.”

The stories detailed the tales of several Philadelphia convenience store owners who all told the same story: Philadelphia narcotics cops entered their stores, cut the wires to security cameras and stole several thousands of dollars, food and merchandise. Three women said they were sexually assaulted. The stories recently became a book, A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love, that has since been optioned for TV.

The FBI probe and case review appears to be all that will happen as a result of the stories, as federal and local prosecutors declined to charge the five police officers under investigtion. The Inquirer’s Aubrey Whelan and Mike Newall report that, while the police officers face an internal review, they are likely to return to the force. (One has since retired.) Sources told the Inquirer the case suffered from “weak witnesses and a lack of evidence.”

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BOOK REVIEW: Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker’s Busted

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Warts and all. That’s what you see of the Daily News’ crack reporting duo, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, in their new book, Busted. These are the women who won a Pulitzer Prize for “Tainted Justice,” a 10-month series about a corrupt narcotics squad. Because of the work, they’ve been called dirty names and threatened by anonymous commentators online. But, with journalism in their blood, they have risked their lives pursuing leads and writing stories that shock and inform.

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