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It looked as if Edward Burgess had gained the upper hand during a life-or-death struggle with Officer Stephen Mazzoni in a dank North Philadelphia alley last Nov. 11.
After beating Mazzoni senseless, Burgess leaned on top of the cop and tried to grab his gun, according to police records obtained by the Daily News.
Then the 38-year-old career criminal made himself perfectly clear: He would kill Mazzoni before ever being hauled back to jail, the records state.
Luck was on Mazzoni's side that day, as backup officers arrived and arrested Burgess before the showdown could get any worse. It's unclear, though, if justice is on the veteran cop's side.
On Sept. 22, Common Pleas Judge Rosalyn K. Robinson ordered Burgess, who had 13 prior arrests, to be released on house arrest to await the start of his trial, which is scheduled for March 25, 2009.
The judge's decision - which came just a day before Highway Patrol Officer Patrick McDonald was slain by convicted felon Daniel Giddings in North Philadelphia - infuriated police officials and union leaders already at wit's end over the rising tide of violence aimed at police.
Law-enforcement sources said that the District Attorney's Office immediately filed a detainer to keep Burgess behind bars, and is preparing to file a motion for reconsideration.
"This is one more example, I think, of a judge not making the right decision," Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said in an interview last night.
"This person assaulted a police officer, tried to take the officer's gun and threatened to kill him, and he was put on house arrest? It's ridiculous."
Burgess - whose arrest record stretches back to 1988 and includes seven convictions - was pulled over in November by Mazzoni and his partner on Westmoreland Street near Germantown Avenue for a traffic violation, according to police.
The cops allegedly found a crack pipe and several empty crack bags in Burgess' car and ordered him to get out. He fled down an alley, where he beat Mazzoni and punched another officer, while stating that he had AIDS, police records show.
The sources said that Robinson's decision was likely prompted by Rule 600, a state regulation that maintains that no defendant should be held in pre-trail incarceration for more than 180 days.
Burgess' case has been plagued with several continuances since February, including some attributed to Mazzoni not being well enough to make it to court, sources said.
"That right there tells you this was no minor incident," Ramsey said. "If anything, it's all the more reason to hold the guy and not trust him to abide by some house-arrest rules."
Robinson did not return a phone call to her office from the Daily News late yesterday. A former prosecutor, she was elected to the bench in 1997 and earned another 10-year term last year.
Earlier this week, leaders of the city's Fraternal Order of Police sounded a warning to judges they deemed as too lenient.
"That wasn't just for show," FOP President John McNesby said last night. "We're going to take a proactive approach and hammer judges who let people like [Burgess] go.
"We're going to assign someone to watch the courts and work with the D.A.'s office. We're going to make sure our officers and our citizens are protected."
In response to the FOP's salvo on some judges, Common Pleas President Judge C. Darnell Jones II said that "blaming the judiciary is not an appropriate response to this type of terrible criminal conduct." *

Story From: The Philadelphia Daily News
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