Police corruption trial: where did that Rolex come from?

The tale of the weed dealer, and the safe he couldn’t bolt to the floor

The tale of how former Philadelphia police officer Brian Reynolds came to own a Rolex watch could play a role in whether a jury will believe the charges against Reynolds and five other city narcotics officers accused of ripping off drug dealers.

Reynolds is one of six Philly cops accused of stealing money and contraband from the very drug dealers they were meant to be policing.

Prosecutor’s witness Victor Rosario said Reynolds swiped the watch during a drug raid at his home in 2008. He knows this because he once saw Reynolds in court, and that the officer mouthed the words “thank you” while pointing to the pricey timepiece on his wrist, according to prosecutors.

But defense attorneys say Reynolds bought the watch from a family friend, and that they have receipts to prove it.

The dispute plays into the defense attorney argument that the federal government, in a rush to judgement against the allegedly corrupt drug squad, conducted a sloppy and incomplete investigation.

Seeking to clarify the issue on Thursday, prosecutors put on the stand a jeweler who says Reynolds bought the watch from him.

Christopher Church is a Reynolds family friend. During testimony Thursday he said he bought the Rolex GMT at an auction for $4,000 on Oct. 6, 2007.

Later that day, Reynolds attended a birthday party for Church’s son, saw the Rolex on Church’s wrist and offered to buy it.

Church’s memory of the entire transaction was shaky. Prosecutors hoped the gaps in his memory would translate into skepticism for his tale.

Church said Reynolds took the watch with him that day.

Prosecutors questioned why the receipt Church gave Reynolds wasn’t numbered.

Church said the receipt he provided Reynolds was a special one that he provided to friends and family for insurance purposes.

Prosecutors asked when Reynolds paid him.

He couldn’t remember when the narcotics officer paid him, but he was sure he did, because he remembered his wife had mentioned something to him about Reynolds borrowing the money from his credit union to pay for the watch.

Records from Reynolds’ bank account seemed to confirm this. They show a loan hitting his bank on October 6, 2007 for $4,000, a Saturday.

Prosecutors questioned whether it was possible for Reynolds would have had time to notice the watch on a Saturday, ask his credit union for a loan and see the proceeds distributed to his account all in the same day.

That question could not be answered.

But prosecutors could not explain photos of Reynolds wearing the watch. Those pictures were taken, according to the timestamps, before the drug raid during which Reynolds allegedly took the watch.

Church said he eventually bought the watch back from Reynolds, for $3,500.
He couldn’t remember when.