PHILADELPHIA (CN) – The racketeering trial of six Philadelphia narcotics officers ended with a federal jury acquitting them Thursday on charges of robbing drug dealers, threatening citizens and burglarizing homes.
Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, and John Speiser were found not guilty after 5 1/2 days of jury deliberation, and nearly a decade of federal investigation.
Prosecutors claimed that the officers’ routine robbery of and threats to local drug dealers included hanging them off of balconies. Since their indictment last year, dozens of citizens have filed civil suits seeking damages for the officers’ alleged misconduct.
Jeffrey Walker, an accused co-conspirator in the force, testified against his fellow officers in the six-week trial.
Lead defense attorney Jack McMahon depicted Walker as a rat desperately attempting to save himself; he dismissed the other witnesses as drug dealers.
U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said he respected the jury’s decision, though he found it disappointing.
“We stand by our case and we will not be deterred from prosecuting cases of police corruption in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania,” Memeger said in a statement.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey stuck to his decision to terminate the officers.
Long before the officers’ indictment, the District Attorney’s Office had refused to include evidence involving their police work out of concerns that their misconduct tainted the evidence they acquired during arrests too badly to be of use in prosecutions.
One of the more recent civil suits against the group involves allegations that the officers drove a man through a rough neighborhood and began to point at people so that they would think the passenger was working as a government witness.
A common theme in the suits is that the officers allegedly broke into people’s homes and demanded drugs and money while threatening the inhabitants at gunpoint.
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