The recorded phone call between then-homicide detective Philip Nordo and an inmate began with a conversation about official business, as Nordo told the man he would appear at an upcoming probation hearing and attempt to persuade a judge to let him out of jail.
But after a few moments, the discussion got personal.
“I don’t know why you’re so shy,” Nordo said, later telling the man, “You’re a freak,” and calling him a “weird boy.”
The recording of that call, made in 2015, was one of two conversations played for jurors on Tuesday during Nordo’s sexual assault and corruption trial – and it came as the sergeant retired. Richard Jones, the lead investigator on the case, took the witness stand for much of the day.
Prosecutors accused Nordo of sexually abusing witnesses during his time on the force, accusing him of rape, sexual assault and official oppression. Three witnesses said Nordo assaulted them. And Jones told jurors that when police launched an Internal Affairs investigation into Nordo’s alleged misconduct in 2017, he and other investigators listened to hundreds of calls like those made in the courtroom on Tuesday. .
Nordo has denied any wrongdoing and his lawyers have described him as a tireless detective – someone who worked all day and all night to find sources and informants who could help him solve homicides.
Jones, however, said he found some of Nordo’s recorded phone calls unusual. Nordo appeared to promise some inmates jobs at a pornography company, Jones said, or asked them not to talk about topics like crime reward money on a taped line.
“It didn’t seem right that Nordo said, ‘Shut your big mouth,'” Jones said.
Some of the details of those allegations were not fully explained Tuesday. Nordo’s attorneys asked Common Pleas Court Judge Giovanni Campbell to limit references to charges unrelated to the accounts offered by the three witnesses whose allegations form the basis of the criminal case against him. (The appeals played for jurors on Tuesday came from a man who did not testify at trial.)
Cross-examined by attorney Richard J. Fuschino Jr., Jones acknowledged that he had never found evidence of a pornographic business linked to Nordo, and he said that some of the men Nordo was trying to lure with reward money had never received payments.
And while investigating an allegation that Nordo improperly put money into inmates’ jail accounts, Jones said he checked whether any of the roughly 70 detectives in the homicide unit at the time had deposited money for one of thousands of inmates across the state. Two other detectives had done so for their incarcerated relatives, Jones said. Only Nordo had sent money to witnesses or informants behind bars.
Testimony was to continue on Wednesday.