I suppose this could be classified as a lesson for some people, a lesson that things aren’t always as they seem. That people aren’t always who we think they are, that fame, fortune and seemingly better “luck” than we have maybe is all bull.
Here is a tale of two people; one I knew quite well, the other I never met in my life but whose escapades I followed like tens of thousands of others.
Det. Sgt. Jack Pennington worked for the Norristown Police Department from 1967 to 1995. As a reporter for the Norristown Times-Herald from 1983 to 1994 I spent a lot of time talking to Pennington. My beat was Norristown and the cop beat was part of it.
Every morning I’d see Pennington arrive at the police station, most of the time his out-of-style perm still wet from what I figured was a quick shower probably minutes earlier. We’d go over the police news from the previous 24 hours. I’d probe for information and his job was to keep most of it from me. It was a game that we finally came to an understanding about. I wouldn’t burn him if he didn’t burn me.
As I got to know Pennington I’d say I grew to like him. He didn’t seem to be the most energetic guy I had ever met on the force in the borough but I assumed he was good at it since he was a sergeant. Once I left the cop beat and Norristown beat and moved on with my newspaper career I lost most contact with him on a regular basis. But like most suburban cops, I figured he’d hang on there until retirement.
Turns out the way he retired wasn’t exactly a traditional road. According to a story today online from the Times-Herald:
News reports from 1996 indicate Pennington – as liaison officer to the police department – was disciplined by then-Mayor Jack Salamone for leaving his borough car at Philadelphia International Airport while he vacationed in Florida.
The police department later reportedly received a cellular phone bill for hundreds of dollars in personal calls Pennington made from that government-issued vehicle. He retired shortly thereafter. receiving 65 percent of his pay for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, over the bridge in New Jersey Bill “El Wingador” Simmons, a local fav on the Wing Bowl circuit, was arrested and charged with being in possession of $8,000 worth of coke and $4,000 in cash. Simmons, whose career eating chicken wings to win cars and cash led to such ventures as his own wing sauce, a restaurant and public appearances, is jailed on $100,000 cash bail.
Of course his arrest shocked everyone. El Wingador was legend to the tens of thousands of WIP loyal listeners who get up at the crack of dawn each year around the time of the Super Bowl to watch big guys chow down the chicken wings. He became almost a regular on WIP’s Morning Show.
Alas, it’s probably safe to assume his image is a wee bit tarnished.
For Jack Pennington, it’s even worse. Montgomery County detectives arrested Pennington in the parking lot of a mall where the retired cop was meeting his alleged supplier of methamphetamine. According to the Times-Herald story, police found a paper bag, which was later determined to contain three ounces of crystal methamphetamine and almost $7,000 in cash. Officers also found $9,470 in cash on Pennington’s person with a retired Norristown police badge and other credentials in his pockets.
A search warrant issued on Pennington’s Cadillac recovered a fully loaded Smith & Wesson .38 caliber handgun, $1,505 in cash, three cell phones, two digital scales, numerous empty and unused drug baggies and a large quantity of crystal meth.
He is being charged with possession of a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy and intent to distribute. He is being held on $2 million bail.
“His actions, which are despicable and very disappointing, should not in any way reflect on the good work done in all law enforcement, not just in Norristown, but in the whole country,” said Norristown Police Chief Russell Bono. Bono I know from personal experience worked with Pennington over the years so his arrest had to be tough to understand.
So there you have it. Two guys, two lives, two men highly regarded by their “fans,” people who got to know them. Their lives are now forever changed – ruined if found guilty as they are each looking at serious jail time.
You have to wonder what happened, what was going through their minds? Each in their own right had the world in their hands. One a police sergeant and the other a local folk hero. Did they really need the money?
I suppose we’ll never know, or at least won’t know the real truth until each goes to trial.
It’s just sad to see lives most of us envy go right down the drain in the name of greed and drugs.
Just remember: things and people aren’t always as they seem…
— Andy Hachadorian