A former veteran Hatboro cop was sentenced Friday to 15 days behind bars in connection with felony charges stemming from his theft of narcotics, guns and cash and his misuse of informants to obtain drugs to feed his habit.
John Becker, 43, of Horsham, who had served as a Hatboro Police officer for 17 years prior to his March 2011 suspension and his resignation in June 2011, was sentenced Friday afternoon following his guilty pleas in August to 18 charges, including 10 felony firearms counts, stemming from his arrest in May.
Becker's 15-day sentence will begin on Dec. 26 at 9 a.m. Following that sentence, Montgomery County Judge Garrett Page ordered Becker to serve the remainder of his 11 1/2 to 23-month sentence via house arrest and electronic monitoring. From there, Becker will serve seven years of consecutive probation, the judge ruled.
He will need to pay a $1,000 fine, as well as $18,186 in restitution from money that he admitted to stealing from the Hatboro Police Department evidence locker while serving as its custodian. Becker was also ordered to repay $2,700 for a watch he stole from the locker. He also owes $120 in restitution to an informant. Page acknowledged that Becker - who is a full-time student seeking a degree in behavior health from Drexel University - may never be able to fully repay the money owed.
Had Becker been sentenced to the maximum extent provided, Page said previously that he could have potentially served between a 50 to 100-year consecutive sentence.
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Becker's sentencing came following nearly two hours of emotional testimony from four character witnesses and a tearful Becker who apologized to his family and friends who filled the courtroom to capacity, wiped away tears and held hands as the judge read Becker's sentence.
Becker, who wept during his brief apology, said he was working to "take responsibility for my actions." Throughout the hearing, his attorney, Vincent DiFabio made reference to Becker's auto immune disorder and said the "crippling" pain associated with it is what led the good cop astray and caused his life to "spiral out of control" as he sought any means necessary to feed his habit.
"My medical condition is not an excuse," Becker said in addressing the court. "For 16 years I was a good, honest, hardworking police officer ... I've worked tirelessly to turn my life around and get on the right path."
By seeking treatment at the Mirmont Treatment Center in March 2011, Becker said he discovered that path - to become a drug and alcohol counselor. Besides his schooling, the recently remarried father of three serves as an unpaid intern for the VIPER program, which specializes in substance abuse treatment for first responders.
As he begged for Page's "mercy," Becker asked the judge to "consider the person I was before and the person I've become."
Prior to the sentencing, a prosecutor from the Attorney General's Office told the court that Becker deserved nothing less than prison time for his actions and for how he "betrayed" his fellow officers.
"When you put a badge on ... you separate yourself from the rest of the population," he said. "You hold yourself to a higher standard."
Becker, who joined the Hatboro Police force in 1994 and rose to the ranks of corporal in 2000 and sergeant in 2003, admitted to using police department informants to make drug purchases on his behalf. According to the criminal complaint against him, beginning in December 2009 and continuing through January 2011, Becker had convinced or coerced several informants – under the guise of furthering narcotics investigations – to buy prescription drugs, as well as cocaine, for his own personal use.
Becker, whose wife, Valerie, works for the county detectives, had served on the Montgomery County Drug Task Force, as well as the Bucks County Drug Task Force and the Emergency Response Team and received commendations throughout his career. Particularly because of his role in narcotics operations, the prosecutor said Becker's actions were "outrageous."
"This is something he chose to do ... rather than get help," the prosecutor said. "There can be no excuse, no excuse, no excuse whatsoever."
Despite taking part in "totally unacceptable behavior," Page said his ruling was lenient in large part because Becker's sons, ages 13, 11 and 9 "need a father."
"You can make a serious, serious impact," Page said, adding that perhaps the downward spiral led Becker to his true calling. "Maybe this incident happened for a specific purpose."
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