6 Philly narcotics officers acquitted in racketeering case

May 14, 2015, 9:49 AM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal jury has cleared six former Philadelphia drug squad officers in a corruption case that prompted scores of convictions to be overturned amid charges that the officers stole more than $400,000 in drug money, beat suspects and lied to win convictions.

The verdict on Thursday follows more than a month of testimony and a week of deliberations at the U.S. Courthouse in Philadelphia.

Lawyers for the veteran city officers strenuously attacked the credibility of a string of drug dealers and a disgraced former squad member who cooperated after being caught in an FBI sting.

Former officer Jeffrey Walker told jurors that he had committed “thousands” of crimes on duty during his years with the squad. He said he never worried about sending people to prison based on planted evidence or perjured testimony because he did not consider drug dealers “human.”

The 26-count federal racketeering indictment, based largely on Walker’s account, accused his former colleagues of planting evidence, roughing people up, and lying to win convictions.

“I was very loyal to the guys,” Walker testified. “I would lie for them. I would steal for them. I would abuse people for them. I wanted to be part of the squad.”

The defendants cleared Thursday are squad leader Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, Michael Spicer, Linwood Norman and John Speiser.

Defense lawyers called Walker, a 24-year veteran, a lying thief and lone actor.

“When you’re dirty and despicable and dumb and arrogant, it’s easy to get you,” lead defense lawyer Jack McMahon told jurors.

Many of the other government witnesses acknowledged selling drugs and one, a college graduate, said he made about $50,000 a month selling marijuana. He said he knew he might face arrest someday — but did not expect to be threatened and leaned over a high-rise balcony in the process. He said the officers returned to his apartment after locking him up and stole a safe containing $80,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen McCartney said the witnesses, whatever their criminal behavior, told jurors “shockingly similar things to what Jeffrey Walker had told them.”

The criminal trial follows years of complaints and lawsuits about Licardello’s undercover squad. About 160 convictions were overturned amid Walker’s plea in 2013 and the racketeering indictment a year later.

Spicer was the only one to testify, telling jurors that Liciardello was an aggressive leader who sometimes bragged of making big arrests, but never crossed the line.

Defense lawyers argued that the squad did difficult, dangerous work and did it well. Some of the defense oratory in closing arguments brought family members in the courtroom, and at least one juror, to tears.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

A staff of Rappler monitors as Filipino journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa talks d...
Associated Press

Ressa says Philippine courts to decide Rappler closure order

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa said her Rappler news website was operating “business as usual” Wednesday and would let Philippine courts decide on a government order to close the outlet critical of the outgoing Duterte administration and its deadly drug crackdown. The Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday affirmed […]
3 hours ago
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrives for a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain on Wednesday, Ju...
Associated Press

NATO chief: Alliance faces biggest challenge since WWII

MADRID (AP) — NATO leaders were sitting down Wednesday to try to turn an urgent sense of purpose triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine into action — and to patch up any cracks in their unity over money and mission. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was meeting in Madrid “in the midst of the […]
3 hours ago
France's President Emmanuel Macron, right, and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands ...
Associated Press

Live updates | Biden says US boosting its military in Europe

MADRID (AP) — The Latest on the NATO summit in Madrid: ___ U.S. President Joe Biden says America’s military presence in Europe is about to get bigger, as NATO responds to the threat from Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden says the U.S. is establishing a permanent headquarters in Poland, sending two additional F-35 […]
3 hours ago
FILE - A street sign is seen in front of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Tuesday, June 14,...
Associated Press

Asian shares track Wall St drop as inflation fears drag on

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares skidded in Asia on Wednesday after another broad decline on Wall Street as markets remain gripped by uncertainty over inflation, rising interest rates and the potential for a recession. U.S. futures edged higher while oil prices fell back. A weaker-than-expected U.S. consumer confidence reading highlighted worsening consumer expectations due to persistently […]
3 hours ago
Associated Press

Northern California wildfire threatens 500 buildings

BRIDGEPORT, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire that erupted in Northern California forced evacuations as it threatened about 500 homes and other buildings Tuesday, authorities said. The Rices Fire erupted at around 2 p.m. near the Yuba River in Nevada County and had spread to more than 500 acres (202 hectares) by nightfall, said Unit Chief […]
1 day ago
Sponsored Content by

BRIDGEPORT, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire that erupted in Northern California forced evacuations as it threatened about 500 homes and other buildings Tuesday, authorities said. The Rices Fire erupted at around 2 p.m. near the Yuba River in Nevada County and had spread to more than 500 acres (202 hectares) by nightfall, said Unit Chief […]

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
6 Philly narcotics officers acquitted in racketeering case