Twice-Fired Philly Cop Sues Ramsey, City

John Hargraves alleges the force is more forgiving of exonerated white officers seeking reinstatement.

John Hargraves was fired from his job as a Philadelphia police officer back in October 2012 after he was arrested and charged with aggravated assault following an altercation with his wife. But the 17-year veteran of the force was found not guilty on all charges in 2014, and now he has filed a federal lawsuit (below) against Commissioner Charles Ramsey and the city, saying that his civil rights were violated.

Hargraves says that after he was exonerated, he asked Ramsey to reinstate him. But Ramsey refused, claims the suit. And according to Hargraves, Ramsey has been more forgiving to white officers seeking reinstatement after exoneration than he has to minority officers, like Hargraves. The suit claims that Ramsey discriminated against him on the basis of race.

Hargraves also contends that Ramsey’s refusal to reinstate him is retaliation for a previous discrimination lawsuit that he filed against the department and former commissioner Sylvester Johnson.

That 2005 suit, also filed in federal court, stemmed from Hargarves’ 2003 arrest on charges that he stole $1,500 in seized drug money while he was part of Philadelphia’s Narcotics Strike Force. Hargraves was fired after that arrest, too.

After a series of continuances, legal maneuvering, and other delays, the charges were eventually dismissed thanks to Pennsylvania’s Speedy Trial Law, which guarantees a defendant a trial within a certain amount of time. So Hargraves filed the aforementioned suit against the city and got his job back, along with a $65,000 settlement.

In the new suit, Hargraves accuses Ramsey of violating the Fourteenth Amendment (by discriminating against him because of his race), the First Amendment (by retaliating against him for speaking out in the prior lawsuit) and Pennsylvania’s Equal Rights laws, and he cites the city for failing to train Ramsey properly. He is seeking unspecified damages, including actual economic damages of more than $100,000.

Hargraves’ attorney, Brian Puricelli of Newtown, did not return a call seeking comment. Puricelli is notable in that he was once slapped down by a federal judge for making numerous typographical errors in a court filing, as reported by the New York Times. And, indeed, Puricelli spells his client’s name incorrectly in this lawsuit.

It is the city’s policy not to comment on pending litigation.