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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Indicted Narco Cops Lose Hail-Mary Motion

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - Ahead of a major racketeering trial against Philadelphia narcotics officers next month, a federal judge refused to toss charges that they robbed suspects.

John Speiser and Linwood Norman are two of the six officers indicted by a grand jury in July 2014 on racketeering charges for systematic theft of thousands of dollars while on patrol.

There have been dozens of civil complaints against these officers since that indictment, and dozens more precede it.

In one August 2014 complaint, a woman claims that five of the officers dragged her to a house, demanded to know where money was, called her a "nigger lover" and told her to kill herself.

With their criminal case scheduled to begin in two weeks, U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno on Tuesday denied a motion by Speiser and Norman to quash several counts of the indictment. The 23-page opinion deems the federal statutes sufficiently clear to indicate that their theft was against the law.

Speiser had argued that his failure to report a theft of $3,900 constituted a false entry rather than an omission, which lacks clear guidance in the 3rd Circuit and thus averts federal jurisdiction. Judge Robreno wrote that, despite a lack of precise precedent, enough courts have covered such missteps to be included under the false-entry statute.

"Speiser's interpretation could create absurd results: for example if Speiser had reported a seizure of $100, or $10, or even $1, instead of the $3,900 he and the other officers allegedly tole, there would be no question that his alleged conduct fell under the statute," Judge Robreno wrote. "But it cannot be that simply because he reported no seizure, as opposed to underreporting the seizure, his actions did not violate [the statute]. Therefore, omission can indeed constitute a violation."

Both Speiser and Norman were released on bail in August.

Thomas Liciardello, the alleged ringleader of the group, was denied bail.

Liciardello's attorney, Jeffrey Miller, said in November that his client had been in solitary confinement for 100 days.

"He's in the hole, what I call Guantanamo North," Miller told the Philadelphia Daily News. "It's eroded his personality, his memory, his rationalization."

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