West Palm Beach news: It’s the stuff crime shows are made of. Dirty cops, brothels, drugs, and a surprising transformation.
In a story that plays out like an episode of “Blue Bloods”, the characters are anything but fictitious.
To understand the plot, you have to go back to the night of April 6, 2001. That’s the night when an all-ready-convicted man’s life was forever changed.
Elroy Philips’s rap sheet was long and ugly; drug-related charges highlighted the list. Perhaps that’s what made him such an easy target for a corrupt officer of the law.
Michael Ghent, then a West Palm Beach police officer, falsely testified that he was working undercover with an informant who bought crack from Phillips for $50 on April 6.
His testimony lead to the arrest of Philips, who has remained in federal prison since that time in 2001.
But Philips was not going down without a fight. Even though it took years, he and his lawyers found records that proved Ghent was not even on duty that night. They uncovered documentation proving Ghent was at a police training course at the precise time the supposed drug deal went down.
In confirmation, the informant later told investigators she had never bought drugs from Phillips.
Shockingly, Philips and his legal team would soon learn that Ghent had been under investigation by his own police department for alleged criminal activities.
Ghent, federal prosecutors said, was dealing and using drugs himself, and lying about his activities during the investigation and trial.
According to investigators, Ghent, who was arrested by his own police department in 2007 on charges of bribery, perjury and solicitation of prostitution, took illegal payments from a West Palm Beach massage parlor and brothel, Relax With Us.
Much like a crime drama, Ghent’s charges were dropped as part of a pre-trial diversion program and plea deal with state prosecutors.
Now living in Arizona, Ghent is banned from working in law enforcement.
As the tragic story continues to unfold, the cliffhanger hinges on what happens to Elroy Philips.
Even with the corrupt cop’s testimony thrown out, freeing him would prove complicated, since Philips was actually guilty of some charges. Both his legal representation and the prosecution would conflict over was would be a fair punishment for the prisoner who had all ready served about 16 years.
Philips, now 50, helped his case for release by presenting himself as a solid example of rehabilitated behavior. In a letter he wrote to the judge overseeing his case he said,
“I am not the same person that you sentenced all those years ago. Whatever lesson there was for me to learn, or that you felt I needed to learn, I promise you I have learned that lesson and I have been severely punished.”
Philips made good choices while imprisoned, becoming a paralegal and gaining the right to seek medical treatment unaccompanied. His model behavior was prime evidence used in lobbying for Philips release.
After a suspenseful bargaining between what each side thought was appropriate punishment, and considering time served coupled with the fact that most federal terms are served at about 85% given good behavior, Philips is now awaiting an opening in a half-way house. His transition should begin in the next few weeks.
Elroy Philips has six adult children and two grand children. He encouraged his daughter to pursue a career as a prosecutor. His attorney related that Philips is looking forward to putting his paralegal skills to work helping other unfairly convicted individuals.
Philips’s family is eagerly anticipating his release. While they wish this story had lead to a happy ending much sooner, they are still thankful for his approaching homecoming.