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Articles on this Page
- 03/26/15--19:04: _Judge Rules Against...
- 03/30/15--19:08: _"Nineteen Mutts And...
- 03/31/15--16:18: _Witness Says Cops T...
- 04/01/15--14:41: _Training Day Fuckin...
- 04/02/15--17:55: _Drug Dealer Says Co...
- 04/09/15--15:05: _FBI Agent Concedes ...
- 04/10/15--11:51: _D.A. Waves White Fl...
- 04/10/15--14:23: _Rogue Cop Jeffrey W...
- 04/12/15--06:35: _Archdiocese Serves ...
- 04/13/15--11:40: _Judge Lifts Gag Ord...
- 04/14/15--15:18: _Dirty Cop Fingers B...
- 04/15/15--18:03: _The Punching Bag In...
- 04/16/15--15:36: _A Gun And A Bottle ...
- 04/17/15--17:04: _Soldiers In The War...
- 04/20/15--15:30: _The Otter Defense
- 04/21/15--15:14: _More Witnesses, Mor...
- 04/22/15--21:36: _"Ramshacked" At The...
- 04/23/15--20:46: _Narcotics Cops Work...
- 04/24/15--18:01: _Defense To Rely On ...
- 04/27/15--11:27: _State Supreme Court...
- 03/26/15--19:04: Judge Rules Against Early Release For Vince Fumo
- 03/30/15--19:08: "Nineteen Mutts And A Dirty Cop"
- 04/01/15--14:41: Training Day Fuckin' For Real
- 04/02/15--17:55: Drug Dealer Says Cop Dangled Him Over A Balcony
- 04/09/15--15:05: FBI Agent Concedes Mistakes In Narco Cop Investigation
- 04/10/15--11:51: D.A. Waves White Flag On Father Andy
- 04/10/15--14:23: Rogue Cop Jeffrey Walker Set To Testify
- 04/12/15--06:35: Archdiocese Serves Subpoena On District Attorney
- 04/13/15--11:40: Judge Lifts Gag Order; Father Andy's Lawyer Rips D.A.
- 04/14/15--15:18: Dirty Cop Fingers Brothers In Blue
- 04/15/15--18:03: The Punching Bag In Courtroom 15A
- 04/16/15--15:36: A Gun And A Bottle Of Tequila
- 04/17/15--17:04: Soldiers In The War On Drugs Or Urban Bandits With Badges?
- 04/20/15--15:30: The Otter Defense
- 04/22/15--21:36: "Ramshacked" At The Rogue Cops Trial
- 04/23/15--20:46: Narcotics Cops Work In A Cesspool
- 04/24/15--18:01: Defense To Rely On Top Cops To Refute Drug Dealers
- 04/27/15--11:27: State Supreme Court Reinstates Msgr. Lynn's Conviction
U.S. District Court Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter has denied a motion that would have granted former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo an early end to his supervised release.
In a motion filed March 21st, Fumo's lawyer, Dennis Cogan, had sought to terminate Fumo's three years of supervised release after some 13 months.
"His punishments have been considerable and he has suffered much," Cogan wrote in his motion. "He is now almost 72 years of age. His health is not good and his financial losses have been considerable."
The judge, however, took a dim view of the request.
"I am nonplussed by such a motion being filed when defendant has not even completed one of the singularly most important conditions of his supervised release -- community service," Buckwalter wrote in a one-page order issued today.
"Two hundred and eighty-five hours out of a mandated five hundred," the judge wrote. "Not even close. To say that this failure is disappointing is putting it mildly."
The former state senator was convicted by a federal jury in March 2009 of 137 counts of fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and filing a false tax return.
Judge Buckwalter originally sentenced Fumo to 55 months in prison and ordered him to pay $2.7 million in restitution. The feds, however, didn't think it was enough and successfully appealed the sentence. Judge Buckwalter then sentenced Fumo to 61 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay nearly $4 million in fines and restitution, which Fumo has paid in full.
On top of his legal problems and financial losses Fumo has dealt with serious health issues.
While in prison Fumo had "underwent extensive heart-bypass surgery," Cogan wrote. After getting out in August 2013, Fumo was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"While undergoing regiments of therapy for his cancer, Fumo nonetheless performed 285 hours of outstanding community service with Sister Mary Scullion's Project Home," Cogan wrote. He described Project Home as "a much acclaimed outreach program that provides critical services on behalf of homeless people."
Fumo wrote about his experiences riding with an outreach team headed by Sam Santiago, a former Philadelphia police officer, in an op-ed published last November by his longtime nemesis, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
"From my brief experiences I would estimate that 90 percent of the people on the streets these days want to be there," Fumo wrote. "We go out and try to get them to come inside, but most times they refuse. Sam knows many of them by name. Our job is to keep on them until that day when they decide to come in."
The prosecutors who put Fumo away, however, were predictably hostile to Cogan's request, and suggested that Fumo was shirking his community service duties.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer wrote that Judge Buckwalter had ordered Fumo to finish 500 hours of community service during his first year of parole at the rate of 10 hours per week.
But "Fumo did not maintain that pace," Zauzmer wrote. Fumo's probation officer advised that "Fumo did his community service one day a week, but suspended that effort while receiving medical treatment."
"Now that the treatment has ended, the probation officer informed Fumo that he should perform community service two days a week, but Fumo has ignored this directive," Zauzmer wrote.
In his order, Judge Buckwalter sided with the feds, and served notice that failure to comply might have dire consequences.
"More to the point, such a failure to comply with the terms and conditions of supervised release may result in a violation of that supervised release with all the attendant consequences of such a violation," the judge wrote.
In response to the judge's decision, Fumo's lawyer, Dennis Cogan, said it was "one more thing for him [Fumo] to get over."
Ralph Cipriano is writing a book about former state Senator Fumo.
A trio of defense lawyers today took turns ripping apart the government's case against a band of alleged rogue cops.
Jack McMahon got the party started by describing the government's star witness, former Police Officer Jeffrey Walker, as a "wicked, despicable liar." The rest of the government's stable of witnesses, McMahon said, are a bunch of lying drug dealers who amount to "nineteen bags of trash."
To cap the day, Jimmy Binns, batting third in a lineup of six defense lawyers, described the government's case as "nineteen mutts and a dirty cop."
In the longest opening argument of the day, Binns spent two hours delivering a lengthy, eye-popping recitation of the numerous witnesses in the case that the government supposedly never got around to interviewing. Those witnesses that Binns said would be testifying on behalf of the defendants include a bunch of supervisors in the police department who allegedly were eyewitnesses to many of the incidents in the case, and a couple of young female bartenders who supposedly overheard nightly confessions from a drunken and drooling Officer Walker, before he would pass out.
Most amazingly, the defense plans to call as their witnesses a trio of federal TFOs or task force operators who work alongside the feds who investigated this case, on the same floor of the office building they share, but somehow were never interviewed by the government.
"This is not a proud day for the Department of Justice," Binns told the jury.
No wonder relatives of the defendants in the courtroom were overheard making cracks about some of the feds calling in sick tomorrow.
Opening day in the rogue cops case began shortly after 10 a.m. when Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek told jurors that even drug dealers can be victims of crime if the items seized are not "yours to take," according to Maryclaire Dale of the Associated Press.
The armed defendants, the prosecutor charged, routinely broke into homes without search warrants and ransacked them to steal drugs, cash, a Rolex watch and other valuables, the AP reported.
"These are men sworn to uphold the law but instead broke it," Wzorek told the jury, according to the AP.
It would have been nice to hear Wzorek's hour-long opening argument first hand but your intrepid Big Trial correspondent was prevented from entering the courtroom today, along with reporters from KYW and Reuters, and numerous would-be spectators.
Federal employees operating a metal detector outside Courtroom 15A said the courtroom was packed, and that nobody else would be allowed in. During a break, however, the trio of reporters gained access to the courtroom, along with several waiting spectators. And what did they discover? That according to numerous witnesses, the feds had kept the front two rows of the courtroom empty because those seats were reserved for lawyers and federal agents. Not even family members of the defendants were allowed to sit in the first two rows of the courtroom because of the reserved seating that was sparsely utilized.
Among the spectators who did get into the courtroom was John McNesby, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, said to be a staunch supporter of the narcs.
Federal prosecutors have charged six former members of the city's Narcotics Field Unit in a 26-count racketeering indictment with beating and robbing drug dealers of more than $500,000 in cash, drugs and personal property, as well as falsifying police reports to cover their tracks.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has described of the RICO indictment against his six former narcs as "one of the worst cases of corruption I have ever heard."
The government's star witness, former narcotics Officer Jeffrey Walker, began cooperating with the feds after he got caught red-handed on camera in an FBI sting planting drugs in a suspect's car and stealing $15,000.
That's when Officer Walker started telling the feds about how his fellow narcs were allegedly routinely beating and robbing drug dealers, including one incident where the cops supposedly dangled one drug dealer from a high-rise balcony. Walker described another incident where narcs allegedly stole a safe containing $80,000 and carried it down 17 flights of stairs.
Wzorek got an hour to make his opening statement. Then the six defense lawyers in the case began divvying up nearly six hours of time to make their opening statements.
Veteran defense lawyer Jack McMahon, the defense lawyer for former Officer Brian Reynolds, was the leadoff hitter, with 90 minutes. He told the jury they were about to begin "a long trip and a journey" through the murky drug underwood.
Officer Reynolds, McMahon said, was an active, aggressive cop was always "going into neighborhoods that you and I wouldn't go into."
Drug dealers, McMahon explained, don't usually like the cops who put them away and take away their drugs, guns and money. That's why it's not hard to round up a bunch of them when the feds are looking for witnesses to testify against the narcs, the defense lawyer said.
"These are people who are deceivers from day one," McMahon said about the government's lineup of witnesses. "They turned over rocks and got 19 people to walk into this courtroom."
"Nineteen bags of trash," he said, only make "a huge pile of trash."
If that's what they did in just 19 cases, McMahon said, imagine what kind of a dent they were making city-wide on the drug trade. No wonder the drug dealers were lining up to testify against them.
"We're going to show you a shocking investigation by the U.S. government," McMahon promised the jury. "The government has shown an outright gullibility" when in comes to disreputable witnesses, he said.
When dealing with such unreliable witnesses, McMahon said, the government had an obligation to "verify and corroborate" every charge the drug dealers made. Instead, the government just bought what they ever were selling, the defense lawyer said.
The stories the drug dealers tell, McMahon said, make no sense. Like the drug dealer who had $80,000 supposedly sitting in a safe stolen by the narcs.
"How many of you have got $80,000 in your house," McMahon asked the jurors.
Another drug dealer in the case claimed the money he was saving up for his kid's college tuition was supposedly stolen by the narcs. Another drug dealer claimed he got $18,000 in a worker's compensation settlement before it was stolen by the cops.
But in each case, McMahon said, the feds have no paperwork to back up these stories, except the words of drug dealers.
Then there's the drug dealer who claimed the cops made off with $50,000 that he supposedly socked away while working at a gas station.
"We should all apply to that gas station," McMahon cracked.
McMahon brought up Javier Blanco, the drug dealer who claimed he was kidnapped by the cops after he was caught with 234 grams of heroin, $6,900 in cash and an AK-47 assault rifle.
While he was allegedly kidnapped, McMahon said, Blanco shot pool and drank beer with his alleged captors. Can anybody be gullible enough to believe these stories?
The feds expect former Officer Walker, that "narcissistic, amoral creep," McMahon said, to be able to wave a magic wand and turn 19 bags of trash into gold. It ain't gonna happen, the defense lawyer told the jury before sitting down.
Jeffrey Miller had an hour to make his opening statement on behalf of former Officer Thomas Liciardello, the alleged ringleader of the gang who's still being held in solitary confinement while the other defendants are out on bail.
Miller described his client as a "highly decorated, very distinguished police officer" whose wife and father are cops.
Miller talked about the failed sting operations that the government set up to try and ensure the narcs. The feds had an FBI agent posing as a drug dealer with $8,600 planted in his car. The car was wired for sound. The feds had a helicopter flying overhead, Miller said.
And what did the feds record? The narcs turning over every cent.
"It exploded in their face," Miller said of the failed sting operation.
Jimmy Binns, the defense lawyer for former Officer Michael Spicer, told the jury his guy was a 19-year veteran who was "not guilty of one single crime in this indictment, I can assure you of that."
The feds, Binns said, have had eight years to investigate this case. We defense lawyers have had only eight months.
The feds have interviewed former Officer Walker a total of 33 times, Binns told the jury. Why would you have to interview one witness 33 times?
"He is the quintessential liar," Binns explained.
When Officer Walker got caught in a sting operation, Binns told the jury, his first words caught on tape were, "You feds you got me good . . . I did it with a gun."
But the stories Walker told don't add up, Binns said. Take the story about the narcs running off with the safe with $80,000 in it.
"Walker says it was $30,000" in the safe, Binns said. Either somebody's missing "50 large," as Binns put it, or Walker is a liar. Also one federal witness said the safe was bolted down, another witness said the officers carried it out of an apartment and down 17 flights of stairs.
Which is it? Either way, one federal witness has perjured himself, Binns told the jury. His money's on Walker.
"Willful blindness" was how Binns described the government's reliance on its motley crew of witnesses. "Polluted sources," Binns said of the witnesses.
Walker, he said, is a "dirty cop." And wait till you hear him talk, Binns told the jurors. "He'll make the other 19 [witnesses in the case] look like choirboys."
Three times while Binns was giving his summation, prosecutor Wzorek raised objections to the judge. After three sidebar discussions where the prosecutor appeared to get nowhere, Binns blithely continued with his assault on the government's case.
Binns told the jury he's been a trial lawyer for 50 years. And this is the first case he's ever been involved in, he said, where jurors will find out what key witnesses have to say at the same time the feds do. Because the feds never bothered to interview so many key witnesses in the case.
Like the lieutenants and sergeants and other supervisors of the narcs who were actually on the scene during many of the alleged episodes of misconduct laid out in the indictment. These supervisors were eyewitnesses, Binns said, and the government never bothered to interview them.
Many times, Binns said, Officer Walker accused some of these supervisors of being dirty cops and the feds never bothered to find out if any of it was true. Well, we'll bring them in to testify, Bins told the jury. And you will hear first hand these supervisors standing up for the defendants.
"These were the go-to guys" in the city's war on drugs, Binns said of the defendants. "You're gonna hear it from their bosses."
They've had eight years to conduct their investigation, Binns said of the feds. And they have no wiretaps in their case. No body wires, no audio tapes, no surveillance tapes.
The grand jury testimony of the government's witnesses "is replete with perjury and they know it," Binns said of the feds.
So much of this case is fiction, the defense lawyer charged.
Like the cops allegedly dangling a drug dealer over a railing. Wait till you hear what the supervisors have to say who were on the scene that day, Binns told the jury.
"Nobody hung anybody over anything," Binns said.
And nobody kidnapped any drug dealers. Javier Blanco wanted to cooperate, Binns said. Do you think the narcs made the decision on their own to keep this guy holed up for a weekend in a hotel?
"He was a guest of the city of Philadelphia," Binns said of the drug dealer who was allegedly kidnapped. The hotel operation was run up through the entire chain of command of the police department, Binns told the jury. It was also approved by an assistant district attorney.
My client risks his life for 19 years and what does he get for a reward, Binns said. An arrest at 5:30 a.m. with a loaded gun pointed at his head.
This case, Binns told the jury, "doesn't pass the smell test."
But it has handed a bunch of drug dealers "a lottery ticket," he said.
Thanks to the feds, hundreds of cases have been dropped against drug dealers. And all those drug dealers "who infect our children and grandchildren" are planing to file civil suits against the police, in an attempt to cash in, Binns told the jury.
But in this case, the defense lawyer predicted, it won't take long for you to decide that all the defendants are not guilty.
The case resumes at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow with three final and supposedly brief opening arguments from defense lawyers, followed by the testimony of the first prosecution witnesses.
He was a college-educated marijuana dealer with $80,000 stashed in a safe in his high-rise apartment and a framed picture of mob boss John Gotti hanging on the wall.
The cops, he said, stole the safe and seven pounds of marijuana he had in the apartment and then taunted him about the picture.
"You're not John Gotti, buddy," Robert Kushner said he was told in a cell phone conversation with Thomas Liciardello, a narcotics investigator who, authorities allege, was the leader of a rogue group of Philadelphia police officers who stole cash and drugs, intimidated drug dealers and falsified police reports to cover up their actions.
Kushner, the first witness called in the racketeering conspiracy trial of Liciardello and five fellow officers, took the witness stand in U.S. District Court this morning and told a jury that he had experienced all of that after being taken into custody, but not formally charged, on the night of Oct. 16, 2007.
A 26-count federal indictment alleges that Liciardello, co-defendant Brian Reynolds and a third police officer, Jeffrey Walker, took $30,000 in cash during a car stop of Kushner just off Ridge Avenue. They then placed him in a holding cell in the Fifth Police District and went to his apartment in the Executive House on City Avenue where, authorities say, they ransacked the 18th floor unit.
The indictment alleges the three police officers took a safe, containing $80,000, out of the apartment.
Kushner said they also took seven pounds of marijuana and lots of "his stuff," including expensive sun glasses, several pairs of high-priced sneakers, other clothes and a DVD he had rented from Block Buster.
Kusher said he was being held in the police station cell when he was handed a phone and heard Liciardello's voice and the comments about Gotti. That, he said, was how he learned the police were in his apartment. The next day, after being released, he saw the results.
"The apartment looked like a tornado had hit it," he said, later adding, "I felt violated."
Kushner, 32, is the first of more than a dozen drug dealers who are expected to take the stand in a case built around what the indictment alleges were a series of "episodes" in which members of the Philadelphia Police Department's Narcotics Field Unit stole more than $500,000 in cash and drugs from drug dealers they had targeted.
Testifying for more than three hours, Kushner told his story first under questioning from the prosecution and then repeated many of the details under intense cross-examination from defense attorneys. Dressed in a gray suit, shirt and tie, the stocky, bearded George Washington University graduate engaged in a verbal sparing match with Jack McMahon, the attorney for Reynolds who challenged almost every part of Kushner's account.
The cross-examination was designed to underscore the fundamental question jurors will have to answer: Who do you believe, the cops or the drug dealers they arrested?
Kushner, who grew up in Bala Cynwyd and attended Lower Merion High School, said he began dealing marijuana while in college. He reluctantly admitted he expanded his business after graduating. He said he was earning "a couple thousand dollars" a week at the time he was stopped in 2007 and that he quickly agreed to cooperate with the narcotics officers after they promised that he would not face any charges.
He later said he felt "railroaded" and "cheated" by Liciardello and the other officers and said his decision to cooperate and give up information about other drug dealers left him depressed and in need of psychological counseling.
He said arrest reports and property confiscation statements were falsified and did not paint a clear picture of what had happened and what had been seized. A police report of the October 2007 incident indicated police had seized $13,000, not $30,000 from Kushner car and made no mention of the safe or the $80,000 Kushner said was inside it.
But he acknowledged that he opted not to challenge the reports because he believed the money would have been taken from him any way as drug proceeds.
"I decided to let it go," he said. "It wasn't worth it...I wasn't going to get it back no matter what."
Under cross-examination by McMahon Kushner said his drug business expanded from low-level dealing -- he said he just wanted to make enough so that he could "smoke for free" -- to a lucrative operation that covered his expenses like rent, food, clothing and entertainment. He said he did not have a job for any significant length of time after graduating from college in 2004 and lived primarily on income from stock investments his parents had made for him and on the sale of marijuana.
"I didn't set out to be a kingpin," he said at one point.
McMahon asked about the photo of Gotti, who the lawyer described as a notorious murderer and "arch criminal." He asked if that was someone Kushner admired or aspired to be like.
"I was just a fan of the mob, of mob movies," the witness said, adding that he also had pictures of other celebrities and sports starts like Michael Jordan hanging on his walls.
Gotti, McMahon shot back, was not a movie mobster, but a real gangster. The lawyer then sarcastically asked if Kushner had a picture of Al Pacino from The Godfather movies.
"Actually, I did," Kushner said, adding that it was not from The Godfather, but rather from Pacino's role in Scarface.
Ironically, Pacino's character in that movie, Tony Montana, was a notorious and violent drug kingpin.
Kushner said he currently works part-time as a basketball coach for high school students, but declined to name the school or institution. He said he is living with his mother and supplements his part-time salary with money from his stock investments.
"Never did I plan to get to the point where I got to," he said of his marijuana dealings. He said he stopped selling drugs in 2011 following an arrest in Montgomery County. He said he is currently on probation in that case. The drug charge that grew out of his 2007 arrest was expunged under a program for first-time offenders.
Kushner said Liciardello told him he would be wise not to register any complaint about Philadelphia Police stealing from him. But he also admitted that when he was the victim of a home invasion in which he was beaten, he contacted Liciardello for assistance. Kushner said he believed the home invasion and beating were retaliation because he had cooperated with police and given up the names of drug dealers and suppliers.
He said he finally agreed to cooperate and tell his story after being contacted by the FBI in 2013. By that point, Walker, a member of the narcotics unit, had been arrested by the FBI in a sting operation after he allegedly stole drugs and cash from an undercover agent posing as a drug dealer.
Walker, who is also expected to testify, was described as a disgruntled and "ostracized" member of the narcotics unit and as a "train wreck both professionally and personally" by Gregory Pagano during an opening statement to the jury before Kushner took the stand.
Pagano represents Perry Betts, another police officer on trial. In addition to Liciardello and Reynolds, the other police officer defendants are Michael Spicer, Linwood Norman and John Speiser.
The trial resumes tomorrow before Judge Eduardo Robreno. One of the drug dealers whom Kushner fingered for police, Michael Cascioli, is expected to take the stand.
Cascioli, who lived one floor above Kushner at the Executive House on City Avenue, was targeted by Liciardello, Betts, Spicer and Norman in November 2007 after Kushner named him as a drug supplier, authorities allege. The indictment charges that the officers went to Cascioli apartment where he was punched and threatened and at one point held over the balcony of his high-rise apartment.
Authorities allege that the rogue police officers stole $8,000 worth of property from Cascioli.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.
By George Anastasia
He said they were all dressed in black and wearing ski masks and his first thought was that it was "the Mafia" coming to rob him.
It turns out, according to a federal indictment, that Michael Cascioli was half right. They were coming to rob him. But it wasn't the Mafia. It was the cops.
Cascioli, once a major marijuana dealer in the Philadelphia area, spent four hours on the witness stand today describing his November 2007 encounter with what prosecutors allege was a rogue and out-of-control group of Philadelphia Police Department narcotics officers.
The soft-spoken 39-year-old was the second key witness to take the stand in the federal racketeering conspiracy trial of six officers accused of stealing more than $500,000 in cash and drugs from dealers they targeted over a four-year period. They used threats and violence to carry out the scheme, according to a 26-count indictment, and then falsified official arrest reports to cover their actions.
The alleged assault on Cascioli, carried out on the night of Nov. 26 and through the early morning hours of Nov. 27, was part of a pattern of corruption outlined in the indictment. His testimony, a description of a night of terror in his 19th floor apartment at the Executive House on City Avenue, fleshed out the details that are at the heart of the case.
At one point, he said, the police threatened to throw him off the apartment balcony, lifting him off his feet as they carried him to the railing while letting him stare into the dark night and a parking lot 19 floors below.
"We'll just throw you off. Nobody would know," Cascioli said he was told by Thomas Liciardello, who has been described as the leader of the rogue group of cops.
Earlier, when he asked for a lawyer, Cascioli said Liciardello replied, "Fuck you." At another point, as he said police pressured him to tell them where he kept his money and who his suppliers were, he said Liciardelli asked him if he knew the movie Training Day.
Cascioli said he knew the film in which Denzel Washington stars as a violently corrupt cop.
"This is Training Day fuckin' for real," he said Liciardello replied.
The indictment alleges that four of the six officers charged in the case where part of the group that dealt with Cascioli that night. In addition to Liciardello, Perry Betts, Michael Spicer and Linwood Norman were identified as part of the team that conducted the search. The other two defendants in the case, John Speiser and Brian Reynolds, were not named in the Cascioli episode but face other charges.
Cascioli said his confrontation with police began around 7 p.m. after he received a call from Robert Kushner who lived one floor below him. Kushner wanted to buy some drugs. (Kushner, the first witness called in the trial, testified yesterday that Liciardelli and two other officers pressured and threatened him, forcing him to give up his drug sources.)
Carrying a black bag in which he had put two pounds of marijuana and one pound of hallucinogenic mushrooms, Cascioli said he left his apartment and began to walk toward a stairwell that would take him to the 18th floor when he spotted several men dressed in black coming toward him. He said he tried to run, but was tackled in the hallway and forced back into his apartment.
He said the men identified themselves as police, but never showed him a search warrant and never read him his rights. When he asked for a lawyer, Liciardello dismissed the request with an expletive.
Beatings, threats and several trips to the balcony followed over the next four or five hours, he said. All of it was designed to get him to give up information about his suppliers and to tell where he had his money.
He said he eventually did both.
Cascioli said he was earning between $30,000 and $50,000-a-month at the time and had stashed $424,000 at different locations. None of that money, however, was in the apartment. But he did have 15 pounds of marijuana and eight pounds of mushrooms along with about $900 in cash.
He said police swarmed through his apartment searching for more drugs and money and continually threatening him. He said he was punched, choked and thrown into a wall. He said he was also left on the balcony, dressed in shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops, for about a half hour during the cold night.
Different members of the police department came and went, he said, including a Chief Inspector who showed up and stayed for about 10 minute. Cascioli said the inspector appeared "tipsy" and left shortly after arriving.
At one point during the night, he said, police called a pizzeria and had several pies delivered, using some of his cash to pay the bill. But that, he later admitted under cross-examination, was the only money taken from him illegally.
He said his apartment was ransacked and that he later determined that several valuables were stolen, including two Movado watches, sun glasses and a Versace sweat suit.
Under cross-examination, Cascioli was less forthcoming, at first refusing to identified his major customers whom he said were "lawyers, doctors and moms."
"I'd prefer not to give names," he said in response to a question from Jack McMahon, one of the defense attorneys.
"And I'd prefer to be in the Caribbean right now, but I'm not," McMahon shot back.
Judge Eduardo Robreno ruled that Cascioli should be required to identified his customers. With that the witness named one of a half dozen customers, but said he couldn't remember or didn't know the names of the others. One, he said, was a lawyer whom he nicknamed "The Jew." Another was an executive at a marketing firm. A third was someone named Mike.
Cascioli said he was forced to set up his main supplier, a Bronx-based drug dealer whom he called that night and who was arrested when he showed up early the next morning at the Executive House. He also admitted under cross-examination that he lied to FBI agents who questioned him after his arrest about where he kept his money.
Authorities eventually seized over $400,000. About $324,000 was at the home of Cascioli's brother in Maryland. Another $80,000 was in a safe he had placed in the home of a friend in Bryn Mawr.
Cascioli said he eventually pleaded guilty to drug charges and was sentenced to 13 months in state prison. He said he never filed a complaint about his treatment while his case was being adjudicated and said he never returned to his apartment after that night.
"I wanted to get as far away as possible," he said, adding that he now lives in another state.
But under cross-examination, he said he is considering a civil suit. He said he was contacted by the FBI in October 2013 about the current case and agreed to tell them what had happened to him and testify against the officers.
If he does file a suit, he said, it won't be for money.
"I don't want money," Cascioli said. "My rights were violated...I want to win."
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.
It was a police raid on a drug dealer holed up in his condo on North Front Street. The cop used a sledgehammer to bust open the window on a steel door, so he could reach through the broken glass and turn the handle.
Moments later, the cop allegedly had marijuana dealer Jason Kennedy handcuffed and dangling over a third-floor balcony rail.
"He hung me over the balcony railing" some 30 feet above the ground, Kennedy told a federal jury. "I was up over the balcony like he was gonna drop me."
The cop asked "If I wanted to go head-first or feet-first, Kennedy testified. "I said feet-first and he said, 'You're not such a dumb fuck after all.'"
That's the story Kennedy told today in federal court. His assailant, he charged, was sledgehammer wielding former Police Officer Michael Spicer. Kennedy was one of three drug dealers who testified in court today about allegedly being robbed by a squad of six former Philadelphia narcotics officers. The question is whether the white suburban jury sitting in judgment will have more sympathy for cowboy narcs out there waging the war on drugs, or for the drug dealers they allegedly robbed and terrorized.
On Feb. 24, 2010, Jason Kennedy was waiting for a customer to stop by to buy some marijuana. The customer called when he was at the front door of Kennedy's 16-unit condo, so Kennedy buzzed him upstairs.
Kennedy came out of his apartment and the door locked automatically behind him. He peered through the safety glass window on a steel door opening on his floor to see if the buyer was out there. Instead, he saw someone he didn't know ducking down below the window.
The next thing that happened, Kennedy testified, was "I saw the sledgehammer" busting through the window shattering glass.
"I thought I was getting robbed," Kennedy told the jury. He had no idea that the guy in plainclothes wielding the sledgehammer was a cop.
Kennedy said he pulled out his keys to frantically unlock his apartment door. And just as he was dashing inside, Kennedy testified, Officer Spicer stuck his hand inside the door. So Kennedy "slammed the door" on Spicer's hand.
Spicer got angry about that, Kennedy said. A brief fight ensued.
"Officer Spicer punched me in the mouth," Kennedy said. The punch loosened a tooth that went through his lip. Then, the cop "was motioning like he was gonna hit me in the face with a sledgehammer," Kennedy said. That's when the drug dealer decided to give up.
The cop, Kennedy said, handcuffed his arms behind his back. Then he asked where Kennedy was keeping the guns and the cocaine.
Kennedy said he replied that he never had guns or coke in his life. Next, Kennedy testified, the cop "pushed me out there" on the balcony. Only then, Kennedy said, on the way out to the balcony did Officer Spicer identify himself as a cop. That was before he dangled Kennedy over the balcony.
Kennedy said the cop told him "all this could go away" if he would become a cooperator and tell the narcs who his suppliers were. Kennedy told the jury he had six pounds of marijuana stashed in his condo and $210,000 in cash. But he refused to cooperate.
"I was about to go make another buy," he said when Officer Spicer stopped by. Instead, he spent eight days in jail. When he got out, he testified, he went home and discovered, "My house was destroyed."
On a police report the cops listed only $130,970 that they recovered in cash when they raided the drug dealer's condo. Kennedy told the jury the cops stole the rest of the money he had stashed in his condo, some $80,000, plus a Calvin Klein suit.
On cross-examination, Jack McMahon, the defense lawyer for former Officer Brian Reynolds, quizzed Kennedy about the anti depressant and serotonin inhibitor drugs he was on.
That gave Kennedy a chance to talk about the severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression that he had allegedly suffered since his encounter with Officer Spicer.
McMahon pointed out that Kennedy was breaking the law by dealing drugs. And one of the drawbacks of being a drug dealer McMahon said, was the risk of narcotics officers raiding your condo.
Does that risk include "getting hung over a balcony," Kennedy asked McMahon.
McMahon asked if Kennedy would have let Officer Spicer in if he had known he was a cop.
Yep, Kennedy claimed, if only he knew would have let Officer Spicer in through the front door.
He didn't say he would have also baked a cake.
In the courtroom, relatives of the defendants were snickering.
McMahon asked Kennedy about his alleged injuries after the fight with Officer Spicer. Did he bleed, the defense lawyer wanted to know. Did he have any facial wounds?
"My tooth went through my lip," Kennedy said. After Officer Spicer punched him in the face, Kennedy said, he fell backwards and hit the back of his head on a hard tile floor.
Did you have a huge lump, McMahon asked. Yes, Kennedy replied, he did have a "huge lump on the back of his head." Of course, Kennedy said, "My hair was covering it."
"On your head," McMahon cracked, running one hand over his shaved head.
The jury laughed.
McMahon seemed intent on pinning Kennedy down on his alleged wounds, possibly because he planned to show the jury some police mug shots of Kennedy with no discernible injuries. But it was almost 4:30, and Judge Eduardo C. Robreno brought down the curtain for the day.
Earlier, Michael Lau, another marijuana dealer, testified to the jury that the narcs arrested him on June 7, 2010 after they caught him getting into a car at 10th and Race armed with two pounds of marijuana and a duffel bag containing between $10,000 and $13,000. But the cops didn't take any of that.
While Lau was in jail, however, the cops raided his mother's apartment, where Lau was staying, and stole $35,000 in cash, the drug dealer said. He had hid the money in a shopping bag stashed inside his third-floor bedroom, he told the jury.
Lau wound up pleading guilty to selling marijuana and was placed on probation. A year later, the same cops, he said, arrested him again. This time when he pleaded guilty he got five years probation. That's when he decided to give up the drug business.
On cross-examination, Jack McMahon asked Lau how long he had been dealing drugs. Lau told the defense lawyer he had only been dealing "approximately a couple of months" before he got arrested.
McMahon quizzed Lau about why he decided to go into the drug business.
"Money," Lau deadpanned.
How did he find suppliers?
"Ask around," he said.
Who's your supplier, McMahon wanted to know.
"Don't know his name," Lau said.
"What did he look like," McMahon asked.
"Asian," Lau said.
Lau said he only made 30 to 50 drug transactions during his entire career. Most his deals were smalltime, such as selling a quarter of a pound of marijuana for $1,000 that he bought for $600, making a $400 profit.
Adding insult to injury, the prosecution called Lau's mother as a witness. Nancy Lau testified she had no idea her son was a drug dealer. The cops who raided her house, she said, told her she might be evicted. The cops also told her she might lose her job as a clerk in Family Court, Lau testified.
After he her son got out of jail and came home, his mother was "very mad," Nancy Lau testified. "He wasn't allowed back."
The feds also summoned Gabriel Levin, Lau's former defense lawyer, as a witness. Levin told the jury that after his second arrest for dealing marijuana, Lau told his lawyer that the cops had robbed him.
But he couldn't remember much else.
On cross-examination, Levin admitted to the FBI that Lau had said the cops stole "something like $20,000."
But Levin couldn't remember much else.
"It was a long time ago," he said.
"I have no idea if it's true," he told another defense lawyer, Jeffrey Miller, on cross-examination. "That's what he [Lau] told me."
Levin has since given up criminal law.
The other prosecution witness who testified today was former marijuana dealer Ian Bates.
On December 7, 2009, Bates said, he was enjoying his own product when he heard a knock on the door. He was expecting a friend. Instead, he opened the door and saw four narcs dressed in plainclothes.
"They told me they could smell marijuana," Bates told the jury.
Bates showed the cops a metal box on the floor containing $86,000. "I was hoping they would take it and leave," he said.
But that wasn't all the money he had. He also had $30,000 stuffed in his guitar case, he testified. And $12,000 on a nightstand.
"I was going to buy 20 pounds of marijuana," he said. He already had nine pounds in a duffel bag.
On their arrest report, the cops claimed they had only found $65,000 in his place. They kept the rest, some $60,000, Bates claimed.
Why didn't you file a complaint, the prosecutor wanted to know.
It would have been "my word against theirs," Bates said.
A subsequent bust convinced Bates to give up being a drug dealer. He now works as a waiter, he told the jury.
On cross-examination, Bates told defense lawyer McMahon that he got tired of dealing with shady characters.
"Not everyone's always honest," Bates said.
"We can agree on something," McMahon said.
McMahon asked if there was any proof to back up Bates' story about all the money he had supposedly lying around in his apartment, any witnesses to back up his claim that the narcs had robbed him.
"No one else on earth can testify to this except you the drug dealer," McMahon asked.
"Yes," Bates said.
Defense lawyer Jeffrey Miller asked Bates about his decision to cooperate with police after they busted him a second time. Was it a difficult decision to make?
Bates said after sitting there for 20 minutes in handcuffs he made the reluctant decision to give up "his friends and business associates" in exchange for his freedom.
The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Mistakes were made in the investigation of six Philadelphia Police Department narcotics investigators, an FBI agent told a federal jury from the witness stand today.
But the agent, John Hess, would not agree with a defense argument that the 26-count indictment charging the veteran officers with going rogue and stealing more than $500,000 in cash, drugs and valuables from drug dealers was a rush to judgment.
Hess also said he could not answer what Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek called the fundamental question in the case -- how high and how wide had corruption spread through the Philadelphia Police Department?
"I still don't know for certain," said Hess, one of the agents who conducted the six-year probe of the narcotics unit.
Under cross-examination by defense attorneys, Hess acknowledged that the government dropped four of the 26 counts in the original indictment shortly before the trial opened last week in U.S. District Court. Two of the counts were dropped because of conflicting statements made by a government witness. But two others were canned because one of the officers charged in the incidents was either on vacation or off duty when the crimes were allegedly committed.
"Obviously we missed this. We made a mistake," Hess said when defense attorney Jack McMahon showed him police work records indicating that Brian Reynolds, one of the officers charged, was on vacation on March 7, 2010.
The indictment originally accused Reynolds of taking part in the shakedown and robbery of a drug dealer on that date.
McMahon, who has emerged as the lead defense attorney in the case, then asked if the FBI had made an error when Reynolds was charged with another incident that occurred on the night of June 23, 2011.
Records indicated Reynolds had worked an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift that day.
"Another mistake?" asked McMahon, his voice rising.
"Yes," said Hess in the same quiet, controlled manner that marked his four hours on the witness stand.
McMahon, whose volatile examination style has drawn caution warnings from Judge Eduardo Robreno, and the other members of the defense team have used their cross-examinations to raise questions about the motivation and credibility of the prosecution's witnesses -- most of whom are admitted drug dealers. Today the defense also zeroed in on the motivation of the government.
A continuing theme from the defense side of the aisle is that investigators and prosecutors were selective in who they questioned and what they asked because they had determined in advance that the six narcotics officers were guilty.
Hess, for example, was questioned in detail about how he and other investigators corroborated the testimony of the drug dealers who claimed they had been threatened, beaten and robbed by members of the narcotics unit.
The officers, Reynolds, Thomas Liciardello, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser, were members of a Narcotics Field Unit that routinely conducted drug investigations in some of the city's worst neighborhood. The indictment lists 19 "episodes" between 2006 and 2012 in which authorities allege the police officers abused their power and stole cash, drugs and other valuables from their targets.
The jury has already heard testimony from a half dozen drug dealer victims. The trial ended today with Michael Procopio on the stand. His testimony will resume tomorrow morning. Procopio claims $18,000, a stash of oxycontin and a Rolex watch were stolen when the officers arrested him in December 2008.
But the focus of today's testimony was Hess' account of the investigation and the approach federal authorities took with the Philadelphia Police Department and several of its ranking members.
Hess said investigators were not able to independently verify many of the claims made by witnesses in the case with regard to the amount of money, drugs and jewelry allegedly taken by the rogue unit. He also said he knew of no attempts to interview neighbors of two drug dealers who each claimed they were threatened by being hung over the railings of their apartment balconies.
At another point in his cross-examination, the agent conceded that several Police Department supervisors with some knowledge of the various "episodes" detailed in the indictment were never questioned and that others were interviewed months after the indictment had been handed up.
One police lieutenant, who ironically is now assigned to work with an FBI drug squad, was not questioned about what he saw during a raid on the apartment of drug dealer Michael Casciolo.
Casciolo has testified that he was beaten, choked and held over the railing of his 19th floor apartment balcony. In response to a question from McMahon, Hess said he was not sure how long the lieutenant was at the scene and didn't know "if he saw anything."
McMahon, his voice rising, his face turning red, said, "You don't know the answer to if unless you go talk to him."
Hess said he did not question another police lieutenant because "I don't think he was going to tell me the truth."
"Oh, you decide (who is truthful)," McMahon replied, his voice again rising.
Later, speaking of the same lieutenant, Hess quietly and calmly added, "We made a judgment ... I didn't think it would be helpful."
Hess also said that two high ranking department supervisors were not questioned even after they were assured that nothing they said could be used against them. He said the supervisors wanted the interviews to take place in the department's Internal Affairs office. They also asked that the interviews be videotaped and requested that they be given copies of the tapes.
Hess said federal authorities would not agree to those conditions.
McMahon and other defense attorneys have hammered away at the government's failure to tape record and video tape witness interviews, implying that investigators could more easily manipulate testimony if their statements were not recorded.
McMahon was still muttering about the investigative techniques and what he contended was a lack of a genuine search for the truth as he exited the courtroom for today's lunch break.
"This wasn't Sherlock fuckin' Holmes," he said to no one in particular.
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.
|D.A. Gives Up|
District Attorney Seth Williams has decided not to retry Father Andrew McCormick a third time for the alleged attempted rape of a former 10-year-old altar boy.
In a brief appearance today before Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp tersely announced that the D.A. would not retry the case.
Twice in the last 14 months, the district attorney had brought the case to trial. And twice the end result was a mistrial after both juries wound up hopelessly deadlocked.
At today's brief hearing, Trevan Borum, Father Andy's defense lawyer, asked the judge to lift a gag order in the case. But even though there's no future jury pool to worry about tainting, the judge told Kemp and Borum that she wanted her gag order to remain in efffect until April 16th. Later the judge changed her mind and announced she would rule Monday on Borum's motion to lift the gag order.
In the absence of official comment, one loyal member of the "Friends of Father Andy" support group said the D.A.'s decision to finally give up was a "long time coming, especially when there is no evidence."
In a last desperate move while the jury was still deliberating, ADA Kemp had offered Father Andy a sweetheart deal. If the priest would plead guilty to a single charge, corrupting the morals of a minor, he would receive no jail time, four years probation, and not even have to register as a sex offender under Megan's Law.
Corrupting the morals of a minor was the least of the five charges that D.A. Williams had filed against Father Andy. If convicted on all the charges, the 59-year-old priest was looking at 25 to 50 years in jail. But Father Andy turned down the deal, according to sources, telling Kemp that pleading guilty to any of the charges would be a lie because he was innocent.
There was no physical evidence in the case nor any corroborating witnesses. Only the accusations of a former altar boy who came forward 14 years after the alleged crime to accuse the priest of attacking him in the rectory of St. John Cantius Church in Bridesburg.
The most effective prosecution witness was a retired Philadelphia police detective who took the first statement from the victim in the case; a retired detective who was also the former altar boy's grandfather.
Father Andy did not take the stand during his most recent trial that ended in a deadlocked jury on March 11. In the previous trial that deadlocked on March 12, 2004, the priest did take the stand, but the result was a disaster. Willliam J. Brennan, the priest's defense lawyer at the time, admitted to the jury that Father Andy was an awkward guy who turned beet red on the witness stand and generally looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
Before the accusation against Father Andy became public in 2011 the priest had been pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Swedesburg, Montgomery County, since 2004. He remains on administrative leave, meaning he can't administer the sacraments publicly or present himself as a priest in good standing. The archdiocese didn't contribute a dollar to Father Andy's defense, leaving the priest and his family to fend for themselves.
But on every day of both trials, Father Andy's support group was there, loyal former parishioners and a couple of nuns in full habit who often prayed the rosary.
In the most recent trial, the alleged victim's grandfather looked weary when asked whether his family was willing to deal with rigors of a third jury trial.
On the witness stand, the alleged victim had testified that his sole reason for coming forward against Father Andy was to spare another boy the trauma of what he went through. He was not in it for the money, he said.
The D.A.'s last attempt at a plea bargain, however, made a mockery of any claim that the D.A. was prosecuting Father Andy to protect the safety of children. The priest could have copped a plea that would have resulted in no jail time and he wouldn't have even had to register as a sex offender.
But to D.A. Williams, the case against Father Andy wasn't about protecting children. It was about winning at any cost.
Jeff Walker walked out of the house in the 5600 block of Florence Avenue with $15,000 in his pocket, certain that he had just ripped off another drug dealer.
Two minutes later he was in handcuffs, stung by the FBI.
Walker, a burly, dreadlocked narcotics officer gone bad, quickly agreed to cooperate following his arrest that night back in May 2013. He pleaded guilty to robbery and extortion charges and began talking. He has been before a federal grand jury and has sat for nearly three dozen debriefing sessions by the FBI.
Next week, the former member of the Narcotics Field Unit is expected to make his debut as a government witness, taking the stand in the ongoing corruption trial of six other members of that squad.
Described by one defense attorney as a "train wreck both personally and professionally," Walker's testimony will be pivotal in the now two-week old trial. To date, the jury has heard from a half dozen drug dealers, each telling a version of the same story. All claim that they were threatened, beaten and robbed by what authorities charge was a rogue group of police officers who over a six-year period stole more than $500,000 in cash, drugs and other valuables from the drug dealers they were arresting.
Walker will be the first witness to offer an account from inside what prosecutors say was a conspiracy within the police department. Like the other witnesses in the case, his credibility and motivation will be challenged.
It will be up to the jury to decide whether Walker is a dirty cop giving up his partners-in-crime or a dirty cop trying to get out from under his own criminal problems by telling federal authorities what they want to hear.
The anonymously chosen jury headed home for the weekend this afternoon after hearing more testimony from drug dealers allegedly targeted by the rogue group of narcotics cops. Key testimony came from Michael Procopio, a South Philadelphia-based dealer in oxycontin who, like several other witnesses in the case, has a civil suit pending against the Police Department and the city alleging cash was stolen from him during an illegal search at his home.
Procopio, who has a hearing disability, answered questions translated by a sign language expert. His story was similar to those of several other witnesses. He claimed that Thomas Liciardello, the alleged leader of the rogue unit, stole $18,000 from his home during an illegal search back in December 2008.
The indictment alleges that Liciardello and co-defendants Michael Spicer and Brian Reynolds took part in the arrest of Procopio that night but reported seizing $4,750 not $18,000. The indictment also alleges a Rolex watch was taken and that the police officers ordered food delivered to Procopio's home and paid for it with cash taken from his pocket.
Through their cross-examination, defense attorneys raised questions about the amount of money on hand, offering statements made by Procopio over the past two years in which he claimed different amounts of cash had been taken. The money, he insisted, was what remained of wedding gifts he and his wife had received seven months earlier and was not part of his drug dealing.
The other defendants in the case are Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser.
Walker, who is likely to take the stand some time Tuesday, the day the trial resumes, worked with most of those officers and is expected to provide details about many of the alleged ripoffs. His story is that of a once decorated police officer gone bad.
Depicted in the indictment as an enforcer for the rogue unit, Walker joined the Police Department in 1989 and ten years later was assigned to the Narcotics Field Unit where he earned several citations for his work. But somewhere along the line, he and those he was working with went bad, authorities say, stealing drugs and cash from those they were arresting and literally taking the law into their own hands.
Walker was arrested on May 21, 2013, in an FBI sting operation that began two weeks earlier when he unknowingly solicited an FBI informant to set up another drug dealer. The informant recorded conversations with Walker, including one in which he boasted about his routine, claiming that he staged most of his robberies on Mondays, his day off.
On the tape, Walker told the informant he did "all of my dirt on Mondays."
With the FBI listening in, Walker described how he would plant cocaine in the car of an unsuspecting drug dealer, have him arrested and then go to his home and rob him. That drug dealer was also an FBI cooperator. When Walker emerged from the house with the $15,000, FBI agents closed in.
Walker immediately admitted he had planted cocaine on the dealer and had stolen the cash from his house. He has been talking ever since. But his story, according to defense attorneys, has varied and his accounts have been inconsistent. That, they claim, is one of the reasons he has been debriefed 33 times by the FBI.
"Jeffrey Walker despised these six men," Gregory Pagano, the lawyer for Perry Betts, said in his opening statement to the jury when the trial began two weeks ago. "There is no love lost between these six men and him."
Pagano told the jury that Walker had been "ostracized" by the other members of the narcotics unit because of his erratic and unprofessional behavior. He described Walker as "a train wreck both personally and professionally," an angry, frustrated cop who had an alcohol problem and who was, among other things, a "Ponzi scam artist" who ripped off other members of the drug unit.
The defense contends that when Walker takes the stand he will be the only rogue cop in the courtroom.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.
|Does This Man Have Anything to Hide?|
Here's a switch. More than a decade ago, after former District Attorney Lynne Abraham got a judge to serve multiple subpoenas on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the archdiocese in a civil case has talked a judge into serving a subpoena on Abraham's successor, District Attorney Seth Williams.
In a lengthy investigation that preceded a groundbreaking 2005 grand jury report on the church, D.A. Abraham got a judge to approve a series of subpoenas that pried open the archdiocese's secret archive files. The files, kept under lock and key in a safe, contained some 45,000 pages of documents detailing what the grand jury described as "countless acts of sexual depravity" committed by 169 priests over four decades against hundreds of children.
But on March 12, ruling in the civil case of former altar boy "Billy Doe," Common Pleas Court Judge Jacqueline F. Allen approved the serving of a subpoena on the D.A.'s office, over the objections of the former altar boy's lawyers.
Court records don't say what the archdiocese's lawyers are seeking. But since the archdiocese has recently deposed two detectives from the D.A.'s office, it would be logical to assume that the archdiocese wants to see the D.A.'s confidential files from his flawed investigation of Billy Doe.
BACKGROUND TO THE CIVIL CASE
Billy Doe is a grand jury's pseudonym for a former altar boy who claimed when he was 10 and 11 he was raped in separate attacks by two priests and a Catholic school teacher. In two historic criminal trials in Philadelphia, Billy Doe's allegations resulted in his three alleged attackers being sentenced to jail. In addition, a fourth defendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, became the first Catholic administrator in the country to go to jail for not properly supervising predator priests.
The current D.A.'s investigation of Doe's allegations, however, as reported on this blog, was flawed from day one. In contrast to the groundbreaking work done under D.A. Abraham, namely that 2005 grand jury report that's withstood the test of time, a subsequent grand jury report done in 2011 under D.A. Williams was so sloppy it contained more than 20 factual errors.
Under Abraham, the D.A.'s office investigated the archdiocese for years and issued multiple subpoenas, the last of which was executed in 2002, before the D.A. published the 2005 grand jury report.
In contrast, under Seth Williams, the D.A.'s office issued its flawed grand jury report in January 2011, and then, 11 months later, detectives finally got around to interviewing witnesses in the case. And what did discover? Every witness statement that I've seen, including ones from the alleged victim's mother and brother, contradict Billy Doe's allegations.
In the civil case, scheduled to go to trial Aug. 3rd, Billy Doe is seeking to cash in on his alleged pain and suffering. Named as defendants are the archdiocese, Msgr. Lynn, and the three men who went to jail for raping Billy: Father Charles Engelhardt, former priest Edward V. Avery and former Catholic school teacher Bernard Shero. Also named as a defendant in the civil suit is the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua.
Father Engelhardt died last November in jail after serving nearly two years of his 6-to-12 year sentence. Shero remains in jail serving 8 to 16 years, as does Avery, serving sentence of 2 1/2 to 5 years.
Msgr. Lynn was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in jail. But on Dec. 26, 2013 Lynn's conviction was overturned by the state Superior Court, which ordered him to be "discharged forthwith." More than a year later, however, the monsignor remains under house arrest on a couple of floors of a Northeast Philadelphia rectory while the state Supreme Court mulls his case.
Last month, Billy Doe's lawyers were thwarted in their efforts to seek summary judgment. On March 23rd, Judge Allen denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment against Avery. That same day, the judge denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment against Shero.
A THIRD GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION
According to the court docket, the case has been hard fought on both sides during a prolonged discovery process.
In a 36-page motion filed Jan. 5, the archdiocese's defense lawyers opposed "plaintiff Billy Doe's omnibus motion to overrule objections and compel discovery."
"With inflammatory bluster, plaintiff accuses the Archdiocese of making 'incomplete at best' productions, thereby warranting 'appropriate sanctions,'" wrote defense lawyers James J. Rohn, Nicholas M. Centrella, Frank R. Emmerich Jr. on behalf of the archdiocese.
During the civil case, the archdiocese has turned over 472 pages of discovery and "has made comprehensive responses to the vast discovery sought by plaintiff," the defense lawyers wrote.
"Significantly, plaintiff has deposed each and every living person who served within the archdiocese's administration in the 1990s and 2000s who might have knowledge of facts responsive to plaintiff's discovery requests," the defense lawyers wrote.
During the case where the first docket entry is recorded in July 2011, ten current or former archdiocese officials have been deposed. They include retired Bishop Edward P. Cullen, the archdiocese's former vicar for administration, who was deposed for two days.
Msgr. Lynn was deposed for three days.
Father Engelhardt was interviewed twice in prison before his death. Also interviewed in jail were Shero and Avery.
During the case, the plaintiff has filed "eight separate sets of discovery requests," that according to the archdiocese's defense lawyers, constitute an "overly broad and unduly burdensome order."
The plaintiff's discovery requests included a request to "compel the archdiocese to make admissions on behalf of dead individuals such as Mgr. [James E.] Molloy who passed away on March 14, 2006," the defense lawyers wrote.
Molloy was the archdiocese's former assistant vicar for administration.
"The plaintiff's repeated attempts to conduct a third grand jury investigation through these civil proceedings must be rejected," the defense lawyers wrote. The "plaintiff must be foreclosed from conducting a fishing expedition."
According to the defense lawyers, during the discovery process, a "civil claim for one alleged victim" has been "transformed into an inquisition of the archdiocese's handling of sexual abuse allegations across decades."
The archdiocese has "already responded to plaintiff's 984 requests for admission served March 4 2014, the defense lawyers wrote. "Plaintiff continues to abuse the discovery process."
In her ruling on the contested discovery motions, the judge seems to have split the baby. In an order entered March 12th, the judge ruled that the plaintiff's motion to overrule defense opposition and compel discovery was "granted in part." But no further details are divulged.
I PLEAD THE FIFTH
While most of the depositions conducted during the civil case remain confidential, one notable exception posted on the docket is a transcript of a videotaped deposition of Avery conducted on Dec. 15, 2014, at SCI Laurel Highlands.
In the deposition, which lasted 17 minutes and was recorded on 21 pages, Avery pleaded the Fifth Amendment to every question.
Avery subsequently recanted his plea deal, telling a prosecutor in court that the only reason he pleaded guilty and lied about raping a child he never met was because he didn't want to die in jail.
The transcript of Avery's jailhouse interview posted on the docket reveals the following exchanges:
A. I plead the Fifth Amendment . . .
Q. Now, if you didn't actually sexually abuse [Billy Doe] you understand that today is an opportunity for you to say that under oath?
A. I plead the Fifth Amendment . . .
Q. Mr. Avery you used to be a Catholic priest correct?
A. Yeah, I plead the Fifth Amendment . . .
Q. Mr. Avery, you've never been married, correct?
A. I plead the Fifth Amendment.
Q. And you've never married because you'e not sexually attracted to women, correct?
A. I plead the Fifth Amendment.
Q. Mr. Avery, you are a pedophile, aren't you?
A. A. I plead the Fifth Amendment.
Q. Sir, you are a child molester, aren't you?
A. I plead the Fifth Amendment.
The defense lawyer for Father Andrew McCormick today accused the district attorney's office of prosecutorial misconduct for trying to put a Catholic priest in jail "by any means necessary."
The D.A.'s office "took every witness at their word no matter how fantastical the story was," Trevan Borum complained to reporters outside the Criminal Justice Center.
Borum, a former prosecutor himself, said that the D.A.'s office didn't do their homework, but "Thank God we did." Speaking moments after a judge lifted a gag order, Borum told reporters about how the defense went out looking for witnesses to refute the prosecution's case.
"They were easy to find," Borum said, including a former altar boy now a state trooper who discredited a key prosecution witness. That's how Borum managed to thwart a district attorney's office that he said was "looking to convict a priest at all costs."
After two heavily publicized trials in 14 months, however, both of which ended in deadlocked juries, "Father Andy" faces "an uncertain future," his lawyer said. The priest is on administrative leave with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and still has to face a church hearing over alleged boundary violations. Then there's the matter of his reputation, his lawyer said, after being accused in the media and the courts of something he didn't do, an attempted rape of a 10-year-old altar boy.
"How do you get your reputation back," Borum asked.
The day began in Courtroom 1102 where Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright was asked to rule on a motion by Borum to lift the gag order. Without looking up, the judge who presided over two mistrials granted Borum's request.
The first combatant to speak with reporters was Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp, who prosecuted both trials. Kemp, reading from a prepared statement, said the D.A. decided not to prosecute Father Andy again because it was "simply too much to ask the victim to endure a third trial."
The prepared statement claimed that the district attorney vigorously prosecuted all sex crimes. But if this was true, she was asked, why did the D.A. offer Father Andy such a sweetheart plea deal? If the priest would have pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor, corrupting the morals of a minor, he would have gotten no jail time, four years probation, and not even have to register as a sex offender under Megan's Law.
Father Andy's response to the deal, according to sources, was, if it's God's will for me to go to jail for the rest of my life for something I didn't do, then I will. But I'm not pleading guilty to something I didn't do.
Kemp didn't have anything else to say other what she read in the prepared statement. When challenged again about the proposed plea deal with Father Andy, two of her superiors conferred for a few minutes in a separate room. Then they came out to tell reporters they too wouldn't have anything to say besides the prepared statement, which said nothing.
Outside the courthouse, however, Borum, had plenty to say. At no time, he said, was "Fr. McCormick going to plead guilty to something he didn't do."
Asked about the motivation of the alleged victim in the case, Borum declined to comment, other than to say, "What I do know was that his testimony wasn't true."
Borum disclosed that his client passed a polygraph test about the alleged victim's allegations.
Borum, who served as a Philadelphia assistant district attorney for 10 years in the homicide, habitual offenders and major trials units, said he was appalled by prosecutor Kemp's blatant appeal to the jury's emotions.
"It was completely inappropriate," Borum said. Kemp's message in her closing, Borum said, was "forget the facts," just find Father Andy guilty to ease his family's guilt.
If the D.A. had decided to retry Father Andy a third time, Borum said, he was going to state Superior Court to file a motion claiming double jeopardy, a motion that would have charged that Father Andy was denied a fair trial because of the D.A.s blatant "emotional plea to the jury's sympathy."
Borum also disclosed that the judge turned down his motion during the trial to allow an expert on false memory syndrome to testify. The expert would have told the jury that the story told by the alleged victim in the case is now how children process memories.
The alleged victim in the case, Borum said, came forward 14 years later. And yet he could remember such precise details such as the flavor of the cookie he was eating moments before the attack. And every one of the 32 buttons on the priest's cassock as he slowly unbuttoned them.
The alleged victim recalled so many precise details that his story came across like a "slow-motion technicolor movie," Borum told the jury.
"Come on, that's got to raise a red flag," Borum said.
They broke all the rules, Jeffrey Walker told a federal jury, but they made big arrests, so their supervisors looked the other way.
"It was nothing but a dog and pony show, that's all that it was," Walker said of the headline grabbing arrests and the enhanced status his unit had within the Philadelphia Police Department. All the while, he said he and other members of the Narcotics Field Unit were routinely stealing cash and narcotics from drug dealers and falsifying police reports to cover their tracks.
Asked how many times during his 10 plus years in the unit that he had robbed drug dealers and submitted false reports, Walker calmly replied, "Can't count them there were so many times."
Testifying today in the ongoing corruption trial of six other members of that narcotics squad, Walker, 46, said lying and stealing were a routine part of the job in the squad run by Thomas Liciardello, who has emerged as the lead defendant in the corruption case.
All six defendants shared in the booty, Walker said, but only Liciardello was guaranteed money even when he wasn't present for a scam. Liciardello, he said, enjoyed special status within the unit and was able to countermand orders from the sergeant who in theory was in charge of the day-to-day operations of the squad.
"The majority of the decisions were made by Tommy Liciardello," said Walker, adding that Liciardello would make a phone call and the sergeant would back off. The implication was that Liciardello had the ear of someone higher in command, but Walker said he knew of no supervisors or ranking officers who got money from any of the robberies.
Walker, dressed in a green prison jump suit, has been a federal inmate since his arrest in May 2013. Caught stealing $15,000 from an drug dealer in an FBI sting operation, the 24-year police veteran quickly pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the other members of the unit.
From the witness stand today the burly, six-foot-three ex-cop provided an insider's look at what federal prosecutor have described as a narcotics squad out of control. Walker detailed nearly a dozen incidents in which cash and/or drugs were taken.
Liciardello and five co-defendants, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser, are charged with stealing more than $500,000 in cash, drugs and other valuables from drug dealer targets between 2006 and 2012. The indictment against them also alleges they routinely falsified police reports and property seizure records to hide their crimes.
At one point Walker spoke of "chunks of money" taken out of a safe stolen from a major marijuana dealer. At another, he described how he and Norman held a narcotics dealer over the railing of his 19th floor apartment in order to get him to give up information.
Liciardello, he said, was a "money-maker" who cautioned him about hiding the cash they stole. He said Liciardello told him to "spend your paycheck," meaning, he said, to use his police salary as he normally did.
Walker, who said at one point he was making $119,000-a-year, said he did not put any of the stolen cash in banks because that would "create a paper trail." Asked what he did with the cash, he said he used it "for women, food, clothes."
He also told the jury that Liciardello established the robbery patterns of the squad and that in most cases "white males" were targeted. They were, he said, "college boy types. Khaki pants. Easy to intimidate."
Robert Kushner, a major marijuana dealer, was a prime example. Kushner, who testified earlier in the trial, was a college-educated drug dealer who lived in a high rise on City Avenue. It was from that apartment, Walker said, that he took a safe containing what Kushner said contained $80,000.
Walker said he didn't know how much money was in the safe which, he said, he broke open with Liciardello and Brian Reynolds. They shared in the "chunks" of cash, money wrapped in rubber bands, that they found inside the safe, said Walker. But he said he never bothered to count the total amount.
The safe was stolen after he, Liciardello and Reynolds stopped Kushner in the car he was driving near Ridge Avenue, Walker said. Kushner spent a night in custody, but was not formally arrested. He was threatened and intimidated and held without being charged while Walker, Liciardello and Reynolds ransacked his apartment.
"Tommy told him we would put him in a cell with black prisoners and tell them he had called them a bunch of niggers," said Walker, himself an African-American. Like the drug dealer held over the railing, Kushner was "scared to death," Walker said.
Walker said he remained loyal to the drug squad even as Liciardello began to isolate him. By 2009, he said, the only person who would ride with him in a car was Norman. When Norman was not on duty, Walker said, he "rode alone."
Personal problems, a divorce, medical issues and a problem with alcohol all became fodder for jokes and abuse within the unit, he said, with Liciardello leading the way.
"I was pushed out of the group," he said. "My personal life was going down the tubes."
But even after being ostracized, he said, he rebuffed attempts by Internal Affairs and the FBI to get him to cooperate. It wasn't until he was caught red-handed in 2013 that he flipped and became a government witness.
Asked why he didn't turn on Liciardello and the others in 2009 or 2010, Walker said he still was "loyal," He also said at that point he knew, "If they go to jail, I go to jail."
The only time Walker showed any emotion was late this afternoon when he described a deal in which he shared stolen marijuana with Linwood Norman, the only squad member who did not shun him. Earlier Walker had said that Norman had once saved his life by getting in the line of fire during a confrontation with a drug dealer. He said when he first agreed to cooperate, he tried to avoid giving up information about Norman, but said his plea deal required him to tell all that he knew and all that he had done.
As he described providing the stolen marijuana to Norman, Walker began to tear up. He paused, wiped his eyes and then continued.
He showed none of that remorse, however, when talking about a series of text messages he and Liciardello exchanged in 2010 after Walker had been questioned by Internal Affairs. At that time, Walker said, he was not cooperating and was not giving anyone up. But, he said, Liciardello was convinced that he was.
The test messages, complete with misspellings and faulty grammar, were displaced for the jury. They included Liciardello calling Walker a "snitch" and a "rat."
"You are dead to everyone in thus [this] squad," Liciardello wrote.
"Die rat," said another message.
In still another, Liciardello called Walker a "partner less rat" and added, "I'm not speaking to you ever again. Hang yourself." In another, he wrote "Now u are a cry baby rat faggot."
In turn, while denying he was cooperating, Walker told Liciardello that it was clear from the questions posed to him by Internal Affairs that Liciardello had a problem.
"You are truly fuck up," Walker wrote in a text reply during the lengthy exchange. "I never said anything it was told to me so fuck for the last time dick head."
Later in the same exchange, Walker wrote to Liciardello, "You will be in jail before me."
In fact, Walker has been in jail since his arrest in May 2013. Liciardello, the only defendant in the case denied bail, has been in the federal detention center in solitary confinement since his arrest in July 2014.
Walker will be back on the stand for what is expected to be highly charged and intense cross-examination when the trial resumes tomorrow. The prosecution's case could hinge on whether the jury accepts the disgraced police officer's version of the events at the heart of the case.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.
By Ralph Cipriano
At the start of his cross-examination, Jack McMahon greeted the prosecution's star witness with a slap upside the head.
"I'd appreciate it if you look at me when I talk," the defense lawyer admonished Jeffrey Walker.
McMahon, a flashy former prosecutor with a white mustache and a shaved head, then spent the next six hours pummeling the witness.
On the receiving end, Walker, a big bearded former narcotics cop who entered the courtroom wearing handcuffs and a drab green prison jumpsuit, seemed comfortable with taking abuse.
"We know you were a thief, right?" McMahon asked the fallen cop that another defense lawyer has characterized to the jury as a train wreck.
"Yes, I was," Walker admitted.
"You're a thief and a historical liar," McMahon added.
"I lie," Walker admitted. "I continued my thievery until I was arrested."
On May 23, 2013, Walker got caught red-handed in an FBI sting operation planting cocaine on a drug dealer and helping himself to $15,000 of the dealer's money while undercover cameras were rolling. After he was arrested, Walker turned on six of his fellow former narcs, telling the feds that they used to routinely beat and rob drug dealers.
McMahon was the lead defense attorney in the campaign to discredit the prosecution's star witness. McMahon certainly brought a lot of enthusiasm to the job The only problem for the defense is that Walker is such a forlorn sap who previously was the butt of jokes from the defendants that the jury might start feeling sorry for the guy.
McMahon started his demo job by going back to the beginning of Walker's career. The big guy who used to wear dreadlocks got started as a cop in 1989. Five years later, Walker admitted on the stand, while working as an officer in the 16th District, he stole money for the first time.
McMahon pointed out that Walker was a thief and a liar before he worked narcotics with the defendants, and he was a thief and a liar two years after he left the narcotics squad and got busted in an FBI sting.
McMahon also got Walker to admit that he's planted drugs on people so many times that he's lost count.
"Yes, and I did it with them too," Walker said pointing to the defendants.
That's not what I asked you, McMahon yelled at the witness.
McMahon also got Walker to admit that time after time he came into court and lied on the witness stand about the evidence he had planted on people.
"You would lie to a jury in a jury trial?" McMahon asked.
"Yes," Walker said.
And those lies resulted in innocent people going to jail, McMahon asked.
"At times yes," Walker admitted.
And what did you do with the money you stole from the drug dealers, the defense lawyer wanted to know. Did you spend it on "wine, women and song?"
"That's correct," Walker said. At another point in his testimony, Walker admitted, "The money I stole that was my play money."
McMahon went through Walker's statement to the FBI after he got busted in the sting operation.
"I knew when I went into that [drug dealer's] house, I crossed the line," Walker had told the feds.
McMahon read that quote out loud to the jury. And then he shouted at the witness, "You crossed it 25 years ago," the first time you stole money, the defense lawyer said. You lied to the FBI.
"It wasn't a con," Walker responded.
"You crossed that line a long, long, long time ago," McMahon said for emphasis.
"Yes, I did," Walker reluctantly agreed.
McMahon drew on Walker's direct testimony on Tuesday, where he told the prosecutor he stole from drug dealers because "I wanted money."
Here, Walker drew a line. He sang to the feds because he wanted to "save myself," Walker insisted.
"I'm willing to save myself from myself," he said, by finally telling the truth. "They were part of the truth," Walker said pointing to the defendants. In telling the truth, Walker said, he was trying "to save my soul."
"I was forced to see the truth in myself," he said.
McMahon, however, pointed out that with all the crimes Walker has confessed to, all the times he planted drugs on people and robbed drug dealers, he's not been charged for any of it.
"You've gotten a pass for all these crimes," McMahon told the witness.
Walker agreed, but said the cooperation agreement he signed with the government stipulated that he had to tell the truth this time on the witness stand.
"If I lie, I will be charged," Walker said. And if the feds throw the book at him for all the crimes he's committed, he could be in jail for life.
"I could never walk out of there," Walker told the jury.
McMahon brought up Walker's personal life, which includes a couple of failed marriages, depression, and a drinking problem.
Because of his personal problems, Walker admitted he was showing up drunk for work, and falling asleep on the job, including when he was on some surveillance operations.
Walker also had a weight problem that he solved by undergoing gastric bypass surgery. His fellow narcs, Walker testified, responded by making fun of him.
"They were making jokes about my life," Walker said of the defendants. "Only one person was supportive of me and that was [Linwood] Norman," who like Walker, is an African-American.
After Norman left the narcotics squad, "I was by myself," Walker said. "They forced me to work alone," he said of the defendants.
A low point was the day when Walker couldn't remember what he did with his service revolver.
"I misplaced my gun," he said. "My gun was in the car; I found it under a seat."
Walker testified about how he reacted to being ostracized by his fellow officers.
"I would do anything to get back in good graces with them," he said. That included lying to cover for his fellow officers.
On top of screwing up on the job and being ridiculed by his fellow officers, Walker testified, his boss, Sgt. Joe McCloskey, was mean to him.
"Every mistake I made he made it bigger than it was," Walker complained about his boss. "He was riding me."
The sergeant knew he had a drinking problem, Walker said. He knew Walker showed up drunk on the job and was carrying a gun. He should have gotten me some help, Walker complained. Instead, "He did nothing," Walker said about Sgt. McCloskey.
At one point, Walker said, his girlfriend urged him to seek counseling. Walker walked into one hospital but ended up splitting. His fellow officers were sent to his home. But Walker denied McMahon's suggestion that he had barricaded himself in the house.
"I was going through a lot of problems," Walker said. " I made a lot of mistakes."
McMahon asked about the narcs' method of putting a drug dealer "on ice."
Walker explained how that process applied to Robert Kushner, a white drug dealer they caught on Ridge Avenue driving his maroon Hummer. In the back of the Hummer Kushner had stashed a bag of money containing $30,000 and drugs.
"We put him on ice so he could think about what he was doing," Walker explained.
Kushner went to the Fifth District. Meanwhile, Officer Thomas Liciardello, who took Kushner's keys, then drove the Hummer with Walker in it over to Kushner's apartment on City Line Avenue. There, they ransacked the place and left with a safe with $80,000 inside.
It was Walker who carried the safe down 18 flights of stairs because Liciardello knew there were security cameras in the elevator, Walker told the jury.
"Tommy said take the safe," Walker testified. "I picked it up and carried it out. It was heavy."
In response to McMahon's questions, Walker explained to the jury how he dragged Kushner out of his car and thoroughly intimidated him.
"We scared him to death," Walker said. "I towered over him. I was screaming at him. He had no choice. You scare someone half to death they're gonna give something up."
Walker testified that he routinely didn't count the money he stole.
"If it's a lot of money," Walker insisted, "I'm kind of lazy. I don't count it."
McMahon seemed incredulous at that. During his cross-examination, McMahon was accused by the prosecutors of frequently cutting off Walker's answers, talking over the witness and repeatedly asking the same questions.
Several times today, Judge Eduardo C. Robreno got into the act, admonishing McMahon for yelling at Walker.
"Keep your voice down," the judge told McMahon. "We're not deaf."
The judge got angry about spectators snickering over McMahon's sarcastic remarks to Walker. During a break, the court clerk warned spectators that anyone seen laughing or making comments would be evicted from the courtroom.
Police Officer Jeffrey Walker had parked his car in his garage and left the engine running. He'd brought along a gun and a bottle of tequila.
Despondent over his failed marriage, Walker hadn't figured out yet whether he wanted to end it with carbon monoxide or a gunshot. In the meantime, he had his tequila.
Asked if he was going to commit suicide that day back in 2002, the 46-year-old Walker replied, "I was going down that road."
Then, Walker said, his girlfriend showed up and talked him into going to the emergency room at Lankenau Hopsital. On medical records displayed in the courtroom, Walker's "chief complaint" was listed as "suicidal, depressed." His diagnosis: depression.
Walker was taken by ambulance to the psychiatric ward at Bryn Mawr Hospital, the medical records showed. It would have been just another chapter in the life of the government's star witness at the rogue cops trial, a star witness one defense lawyer has aptly described as a train wreck. Except that Walker had made a big deal out of telling the jury that when he became a government witness he had finally stopped lying.
The hitch was, the day he signed his cooperation agreement with the government, the judge had asked Walker if he'd ever been hospitalized or treated for mental illness. Walker's answer was no. To defense lawyer Jeffrey Miller, this was proof that Walker was still lying.
"I walked away the treatment they suggested" at Bryn Mawr, Walker explained on the witness stand. "I wasn't treated."
So that's why Walker said no when the judge asked if he'd ever been hospitalized or treated for mental illness.
Five defense lawyers spent most of the day quizzing Walker. The subjects of discussion included all the incriminating details Walker gave the government in 45 sessions with the FBI about his escapades over the years with six fellow narcotics officers. All six are charged in a RICO conspiracy to beat and rob drug dealers and cover their tracks with falsified police records.
The day started with Jack McMahon asking Walker about a February 2011 drug bust in a drug dealer's apartment where Walker bolted from the scene because he supposedly had to go to the bathroom.
McMahon seemed to be operating under the theory that Walker was lying again and up to no good when he split. There is also the unsolved mystery of how some $7,000 disappeared from the drug dealer's apartment and whether Walker, an admitted liar and thief, had anything to do with it.
McMahon asked Walker why he didn't just use a bathroom in the drug dealer's apartment.
"I'm not going in someone else's bathroom if I had to sit down," Walker explained. "My stomach was hurting. I had to go home and get some medicine. I didn't have any money."
So Walker said he drove to the 15th District, used the bathroom. And then he drove to his house where he chugged some Milk of Magnesia.
His supervisor, St. Joe McCloskey, Walker said, called him up and asked, "Where you at?"
To McMahon, Walker's story made no sense and was more proof that Walker's fellow officers and supervisors couldn't depend on him.
Another courtroom exhibit display today showed that between July 2008 and July 2011, Walker had made 489 calls to "Ivy the drug dealer."
Expect to hear more about that as the case continues.
On the witness stand today for his second day of cross-examination, Walker was much more assertive. "I'm not done yet," he barked at McMahon several times when the defense lawyer tried to cut him off.
Walker also gave many long answers that prompted a couple of defense attorneys to object.
"I don't want to interrupt your speech," McMahon said at one point during one rambling answer.
Other courtroom exhibits today included more text messages between Walker and Officer Thomas Liciardello, the former cop that the feds say was the ringleader of the rogue narcs.
"Sir Rat A Lot" and "Sir Snitch A Lot" were some of the more creative names that Liciardello called Walker in his texts.
"Get your eyes checked and stop falling asleep on surveillance," Liciardello also texted Walker.
"I see all and know all remember," Walker responded to Liciardello. "You be little me every day."
On the witness stand, Walker tried to tell McMahon that he wasn't into money any more.
"Peace of mind right now is more important to me than anything," Walker said.
Jeffrey Miller, representing Liciardello, asked Walker if the object of his cooperation agreement with the government was to get a light sentence.
"I'm hoping for mercy from the judge," Walker responded. He defined mercy as the judge "giving me something I don't deserve."
"I deserve a life sentence," Walker testified. "I'm hoping I do not get one."
Miller asked about Walker's venting to one of his superior officers, Lt. Robert Otto, when Otto was trying to mitigate the feud between Walker and Liciardello.
"I hated him [Liciardello] for what he was doing to me," Walker said. "I told him [Otto] I hated Tommy."
Did you ever tell the lieutenant that some day you would show Liciardello just how much you hated him, Miller asked.
"No, I didn't," Walker said.
Miller went over the details of the day Walker was busted in an FBI sting for planting an ounce of cocaine on another drug dealer. After the drug dealer was arrested, Walker went over to the drug dealer's house and with undercover cameras rolling, walked out of the place with $15,000 in cash and five pounds of marijuana.
"I orchestrated the plan," Walker said. That's why he enlisted the aid of two uniformed officers to pull over the drug dealer.
"In order to break policy you have to know policy," Walker said. He's been in jail ever since, for the last two years.
Drug dealers carry guns, Miller said. Did you ever consider that in orchestrating your plan to plant drugs on that dealer, so you could rob him, that you might have exposed two of your fellow officers to bodily injury?
"That thought didn't cross my mind," Walker said. When asked about planting drugs on people, Walker said, "I've done it so many times" that he couldn't give Miller a number.
The defense lawyer got the witness to agree that he'd planted drugs on people at least 20 times.
And then you stood up in court under oath and lied to a judge and a jury, and sent these innocent people off to jail, Miller said.
Yep, Walker agreed, that's what I did.
"How can the jury tell when you're lying and when you're telling the truth," Miller asked.
The prosecutor objected and the judge sustained the objection.
Instead of seeking inner peace in his jail cell, Miller suggested, Walker might be having delusions of grandeur. The defense lawyer asked Walker if it was true that he was planning to write a book about his exploits.
"It crossed my mind," Walker said. He's talked about it with his family and the FBI.
When you meet with the FBI 45 times, you can't talk about the case all the time.
The Jeffrey Walker story would be a cautionary tale.
The book would reveal how "I've destroyed my life," Walker said. "I've poisoned my life. I see that. I see all the damage I've done."
When he was done after three days of testimony, Walker turned his back and bowed his head so that one of the marshals could cuff him. Then the prosecution's star witness was gone, on his way back to jail.
Disgraced narcotics cop Jeffrey Walker spent three days on the witness stand this week in the federal corruption trial of six fellow officers.
Walker, depending on your perspective, provided either the high or the low point of the now three week-old trial. By his own admission, he was a liar, cheat and thief during most of his 24 years with the Philadelphia Police Department. But that's a description he and federal prosecutors say that also fits the six members of the Narcotics Field Unit sitting at the defense table in U.S. District Court.
Planting drugs, stealing cash and narcotics, falsifying reports and lying in court were all part of a day's work in the unit, Walker said.
When the indictment in this case was handed down last year Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey called it one of the worst cases of corruption in the department's history. A more troubling possibility, and one hinted at by the feds, is that the dark side of law enforcement that has been the theme of this prosecution is SOP in narcotics squads.
Walker, 46, took the stand after the jury had heard tales of corruption and abuse from a half dozen admitted drug dealers who in one way or another said their constitutional rights had been trampled on by lead defendant Thomas Liciardello and his five-co-defendants.
The jury heard more of the same today from several other witnesses arrested by what authorities allege was a rogue unit led by Liciardello.
But it's hard to generate sympathy for criminals which is part of the dilemma facing prosecutors in this case. From many of the reader comments on this website it's clear that there are those who believe the defendants were the front line of defense in a war of drugs and that in that war all that mattered was winning.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, have painted the six accused cops as urban bandits with badges.
As the trial moves into its fourth week on Tuesday the key issue that has emerged is not whether the jury -- largely middle class, white suburban residents -- feels sorry for the witnesses. The point is whether the jury believes them.
Walker, a sad sack of a witness, corroborated much of the earlier testimony, although his details weren't always a perfect fit. That is to be expected from any two people recounting events that occurred six or seven years in the past. The indictment focuses on incidents that allegedly occurred between 2006 and 2012.
So was drug dealer Michael Cascioli dangled by his feet over the 19th floor balcony railing at his City Avenue apartment or was he lifted by Walker and co-defendant Linwood Norman and shown the height from which he could be dropped if he didn't cooperate with the cops?
And did Howard Wilson hide $38,000 in drug proceeds in a sweat suit stuffed in a clothes dryer or was the money in a shoe box hidden in that basement dryer?
Those were just two varying versions of a litany of crimes and questionable behavior the jury has heard about over the first three weeks of the trial. There are 19 "episodes" of corruption detailed in the indictment. Thus far about half of those have been laid out for the jury through at times mind-numbingly detailed direct testimony and sleep-inducing repetition on cross-examination.
Once the prosecution rests, perhaps in two more weeks, the defense has said it expects to call several high ranking members of the police department who were on the scene for some of the events in order to refute prosecution witness testimony.
That should be interesting.
There is the police inspector who, according to testimony, showed up drunk at a raid. And the police lieutenant who the FBI didn't question because, an agent said from the witness stand, authorities didn't believe he would tell the truth.
Finally there is the police sergeant who directed the unit and who, the feds allege, looked the other way, instituting his own "don't ask, don't tell" policy as long as the Liciardello-led unit was making big drug busts.
Walker finished his testimony Thursday the way he began, acknowledging his guilt but insisting he was just going along with the program. At times he appeared beaten down as he discussed how his personal life was a shambles -- marital problems, depression, thoughts of suicide, drinking on the job and medical ailments. The six-foot-three one-time unit enforcer said that while he dealt with those issues, Liciardello and the others, with the exception of Norman, mocked and belittled him.
It was sophomoric. It was as if Liciardello and his guys were the popular group in high school and Walker, the lanky Geek who had been ostracized, was willing to do whatever it took to fit back in. A series of text messages between Liciardello and Walker were petty, petulant and pathetic. These were, after all, grown men. Grown men, in fact, with badges and guns.
"I was loyal," Walker said. "I wanted to be part of the group."
Not until May 21, 2013, when he was caught red-handed in an FBI sting robbing a "drug dealer" who was actually an FBI cooperator, did he agree to give it all up and become a witness for the feds.
From the witness stand this week, Walker frankly admitted he was trying to save himself and win a reduction in a potential 20-year sentence by throwing Liciardello and the others under the bus. Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen McCartney if he ever was concerned about the drug dealers who were jailed and convicted as a result of false or exaggerated testimony, planted evidence or bogus police reports, Walker said he was not.
"They were criminals," he said, fair game in the war on drugs that he and the others were waging.
There are those, of course, who might argue that morals and ethics have no place in war and that you do whatever it takes to win. And, conversely, there are those who might say that if to defeat your enemy you have to become your enemy, then you've already lost.
In this case, it will be up to the jury to decide which of those two philosophies applies.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.
By Ralph Cipriano
We're entering our fourth week in the rogue cops trial, and so far the poster boy is Jeffrey Walker.
He's the dirty cop who got caught red-handed in an FBI sting operation walking out of a drug dealer's house with $15,000 and five pounds of marijuana. The drunk who showed up loaded at work and got so bombed at his favorite bar every night that he passed out while drooling on himself. The office screw-up who dozed off during stake-outs, bailed on a raid because he needed a hit of Milk of Magnesia; the bumbler who forgot where he left his gun.
Meanwhile, over at the defense table sits Tommy Licardello. If the prosecution's story line is to believed, Liciardello is the dark criminal mastermind who knew how to placate the department brass with headline-grabbing busts while he and his gang were beating and ripping off drug dealers. An amoral, ruthless bandit with a badge who was so slick he supposedly knew how to hide the booty from the feds and all their undercover cameras and FBI accountants.
The jury seems to have gotten their fill of Jeffrey Walker. When the marshalls led him away in handcuffs last week after three days on the witness stand, every juror I saw was looking the other way. Meanwhile, as the trial enters its fourth week, the jury has only seen and will probably never hear from Tommy Licardello. All the jury knows about Liciardello, the pale guy at the defense table who's being held in solitary confinement, is a bunch of allegations from some drug dealers he busted. As for the rest of the defendants, as far as the testimony goes, it's hard to tell Michael Spicer from John Speiser. They're just a bunch of anonymous RICO conspirators.
The feds, already guilty of sloppy detective work in the rogue cops case, can also be faulted for bad story-telling.
The sloppiness of the feds in this case has been ampty demonstrated.
On the eve of trial, the government had to drop a couple of counts from a 26-count indictment because one of their sleazeball witnesses got busted again. And because the feds didn't do their homework in checking out another sleazeball witness's story.
Mistakes were made, an FBI agent admited on the stand. The defense has already made hay out of their plan to call several of the rogue cops's supervisors to the stand, witnesses that the feds never even bothered to talk to.
We didn't interview one lieutenant, an FBI agent testified, because we didn't think he would tell the truth.
Or as the defense suggested, maybe it was because it was only your version of the truth that you wanted to hear.
There are plenty of other problems with the prosecution's case. If Tommy Licardello and the boys stole $500,000 from the drug dealers, as the feds have alleged, what did they do with the money? If the defense is to be believed, there's no paper trail on the alleged booty, or undercover screen grabs of cops getting caught red-handed. Just the word of Walker and a bunch of drug dealers all singing the same song in the federal choir.
The feds say that Tommy and the narcs stole a drug dealer's safe with $80,000 in it. But Jeffrey Walker, the prosecution's star witness, says there was only $30,000 in the safe. Who does the jury believe?
If the jury believes Walker is credible, they have to swallow his story that he's the rare thief who's so lazy he never gets around to counting the money he stole. Can anybody buy that?
If Tommy and the narcs are the criminals the feds say they are, why didn't they take the bait in an FBI string operation the way Jeffrey Walker did? What does the jury do about that?
If the feds were so convinced the six defendants were such corrupt officers, why didn't they keep running sting operations until they caught them red-handed like Walker? The federal investigation of the six defendants had already gone on for eight years. Why didn't they keep it going until they got it right?
The government seems to be relying on a traditional strategy of saving up their tirade against Tommy Liciardello until the closing argument. But by then, will it be too late? Instead of a starring role for Tommy Licardello, the jury will be left to ponder for far too long how pathetic Jeffrey Walker is.
All the prosecution has besides Walker is a bunch of whiny drug dealers who say they were taken advantage of. The defense claims they have a bunch of superior officers who will testify that those busts were legit and that the defendants were hero cops. It helps their case when there's no booty to show off on surveillance videos, or a paper trail about secret accounts where the loot was socked away.
With the sleaziness of the prosecution witnesses and all the holes in the case, can Tommy and the boys shoot their way out? While getting away with acting like cowboys on the street and frat boys in the cop shop?
"Sir Rat A Lot" and "Sir Snitch A Lot" were a couple of the names that Liciardello dropped on Walker in sophomoric text messages displayed in court.
With the defendants behaving like frat boys, should the defense reprise Otter's closing argument from Animal House?
To parphrase Otter, the issue isn't whether we broke a few rules or took a few liberties with the drug dealers we arrested. We did, they can say with a knowing wink. But you can't hold a whole police department responsible for the behavior of a few sick perverted individuals, can you? For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole criminal justice system? And the entire war on drugs?
And if you do, isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do what you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you bad mouth the United States of America!
If the defendants march out of the courtroom humming the Star-Spangled Banner and passing themselves off as soldiers in the war on drugs, will it work? The only other alternative is buying what Jeffrey Walker and a bunch of drug dealers are peddling.
As one defense lawyer described the prosecution's case, it's a dirty cop and 19 bags of trash.
The dirty cop has alread admitted that he's planted drugs on innocents so many times that he can't count. That he's used to coming into court and lying over and over again to a judge and a jury to send innocent men to jail. So why would anyone believe him this time?
He's a fall-down drunk who claims he's changed his ways while meditating in his cell since his bust in the FBI sting operation. But as the defense has pointed out, Walker's also been talking about writing a book about his exploits during his 45 interviews with the FBI.
The same FBI that never bothered to interview Walker's superior officers who were often present at the scene of many of the "episodes" of alleged bad behavior described in this case.
Either way the jury chooses to go, they may have to do it while holding their noses.
They came dressed in black, waving their guns and hiding their faces behind ski masks.
They wanted to know where the drugs and money were and when he didn't tell them he said they threatened to take his five young children away from him.
He spent the night in a police lockup without being charged and then, he said, he was literally held hostage over the next five days in a hotel near the airport, forced to give up the names of drug dealers he knew and to set up buys so that they could be arrested.
That was the story, told through a Spanish interpreter, that Rodolfo Blanco told a federal jury today in the trial of six Philadelphia Police Department narcotics cops accused of stealing more than $500,000 in cash and drugs from targeted dealers in what Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has called one of the worst cases of police corruption in the city's history.
Blanco, a 41-year-old barber who lived above his shop in the 4600 block of Frankford Avenue, is one of more than a dozen witnesses who have testified for the prosecution in the high profile case now in its fourth week. And like most of those witnesses, his testimony and credibility were challenged when the defense got to cross-examine him.
Blanco insisted he was not dealing drugs when police burst into his apartment around 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2006. He said a police report citing information from a confidential informant who said he routinely bought heroin in the barbershop was not true.
He also said that a document indicating that police had seized nine small plastic bags of heroin, a loaded assault rifle and a coffee grinder that later tested positive for heroin residue was fabricated. There were, he said, no drugs or guns in his apartment and there was no coffee grinder.
"The thing was, they told me if I gave them money, they would leave," said Blanco who was able to identify only one of the defendants, Thomas Liciardello, as part of the group that conducted the raid.
He said he pointed police toward his bedroom where, in a plastic pencil bag, he had $12,000. The cash, he claimed, was from the sale of a van. The indictment alleges that Liciardello and Jeffrey Walker, another member of the alleged rogue unit, pocketed more than half the cash, claiming on a property receipt that only $5,960 had been seized.
Walker testified for the government last week, admitting that he routinely stole cash and drugs while working in the Narcotics Field Unit.
Blanco said when he was taken to the hotel he was told "if I gave them somebody they would let me go." He said he was not in the drug business, but that "in a barbershop you hear a lot of things." So he called three individuals who he believed were drug dealers and set up buys. Each was arrested.
He also contacted a dealer in Florida.
All the while, Blanco said, he was in fear that his children, all under the age of six, would be taken away.
Life in the hotel wasn't exactly prison, he acknowledged, but he said he was nonetheless a hostage, unable to leave when he wanted. He said the police arranged for his wife to send him clothes and he said he and the police officers ate and drank at local restaurants and also played pool.
Eventually, he said, he told police he had no more names to give him and they released him without filing any charges. Shown another document that he had signed indicating he had agreed to become an informant, Blanco said he thought it was a paper he had to sign in order to be released. He said he understands English, but does not speak it well. And he said in 2006 he understood even less.
Under cross-examination, the thick-chested barber, who sported colorful tattoos on both sides of his neck, admitted that he had been arrested on a drug charge in 2010 in Delaware. He said he was transporting cocaine (about 500 grams) for a friend when he was arrest. He later pleaded guilty.
That, he said, was the only time he had ever been involved in drug dealing.
"It was a mistake," he said. "They caught me...(The police in Delaware) were doing their jobs." But the police in Philadelphia, he insisted, were not.
Blanco's testimony was sandwiched between two other accounts of alleged police corruption.
Earlier today Robert Silverstein, an admitted small time marijuana dealer, said police took $7,000 from a cigar box he kept in his apartment during a raid in February 2011. He identified defendants Michael Spicer and Perry Betts as part of the police crew that conducted the search of his apartment in the 7900 block of Horrocks Street.
Police, Silverstein acknowledged, did file a receipt indicating they had found $50,000 in a safe but did not list the $7,000 from the cigar box.
The day ended with Kenneth Williams on the stand. The one-time state trooper and admitted marijuana user, said police broke down the door of his home on North 51st Street on June 30, 2010. Liciardello, Betts, Spicer, Walker and co-defendant Linwood Norman are charged in that incident, according to the indictment.
Williams said the police seized $16,200 dollars, including $14,000 he had hidden in a suit pocket in his bedroom. A police report indicated that only $2,413 in cash had been found. The bulk of the $14,000, Williams said, came from a worker's comp settlement. He admitted that he sometimes added small amounts of cash if friends gave him money for some of the marijuana they would smoke together.
Asked why he didn't keep the $14,000 in a bank, Williams offered an explanation that underscores the problem the prosecution has with the parade of witnesses who have testified. Most have back stories that undermine -- or at least raise questions about -- their honesty and motivation.
"I had an issue with family court," Williams said.
When Assistant U.S. Attorney Wzorek said bluntly, "You were hiding the money?," Williams replied that he was.
"I was in arrears in payments for child support," he said.
More drug dealer victims are expected to take the stand when the trial resumes tomorrow. Indications are the prosecution could wrap up its case by the end of the week.
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net
As the prosecution in the rogue cops trial winds down its case, they're scraping the bottom of the barrel for witnesses.
One drug dealer on the witness stand today confessed that he had two different names.
Another drug dealer testifying on behalf of the government who was unsteady on his feet looked and smelled like he may have been drinking his favorite beverage again, Grey Goose Vodka.
Meanwhile, Judge Eduardo C. Robreno announced that the trial was moving much faster than expected, and that the prosecution would be winding down its case this week. As rumors swept the courtroom that one of the reasons why was that another unreliable prosecution witness was about to be ejected from the case.
The government has already had to drop a couple of witnesses; one drug dealer because he got arrested again, another drug dealer because he got caught lying under oath. So it would be no surprise if a third prosecution witness gets the boot. Since there's a gag order in the case, none of the lawyers can comment.
The day began with the cross-examination of Kenneth Williams, a former state trooper and self-confessed marijuana user.
On Tuesday, Williams told the jury that the defendants broke down the door of his home on North 51st Street on June 30, 2010 and seized $16,200. That included $14,000 that Williams claimed he had hidden in a suit pocket in his bedroom. A police report, however, said the cops only found $2,413 in cash.
The bulk of the $14,000, Williams said on direct testimony, came from a worker's comp settlement. Asked why he didn't keep the $14,000 in a bank, Williams told the prosecutor on Tuesday, "I had an issue with family court."
"You were hiding the money?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Wzorek asked.
"I was in arrears in payments for child support," was how Williams put it.
On cross-examination today under questioning from defense lawyer Jack McMahon, Williams admitted that the worker's compensation settlement supposedly came through 10 years earlier.
McMahon asked if Williams had any paperwork to prove he had ever received the worker's compensation payment.
"I don't," Williams responded.
McMahon implied that Williams was a less than honorable father when he asked the witness if he was "hiding it [the money] from his children."
Williams insisted he was hiding the money from family court.
McMahon was clearly unimpressed.
"I have no other questions for this guy," the defense lawyer said before he sat down.
The next prosecution witness to testify against the defendants was another drug dealer named C. Thomas. Or was it C. Whitaker.
He's named "C.T." in the indictment. During his time on the stand, the witness revealed that his last name was an alias he gave police when he was first arrested at 13. His real name is Mr. Whitaker, the witness said. But throughout this case everyone has called him Mr. Thomas.
Whatever. It's a government witness were talking about.
Thomas's story was that on March 23, 2010, he heard a "boom, boom, boom" at the door and when he opened it, he saw some cops in uniform. They searched the house and found a bag of marijuana in a dresser drawer in a second-story bedroom.
"They pulled me out of the house," said Thomas, a scruffy, bearded drug dealer with a deep voice. "We had a little tussle," he said about his altercation with the defendants.
It was a case of mistaken identity, Thomas said. The cops were really after his cousin, who lived in the house that Thomas owned on the 1600 block of Annin Street in South Philadelphia. When the cops figured out who he really was, the witness testified, they took the cuffs off him and slapped the cuffs on his cousin and took him away.
The incident involving Thomas is described as "Episode #14" in the indictment, which charges that former Officers Linwood Norman and Jeffrey Walker allegedly stole $20,000 found in a second-floor bedroom. According to the indictment, Norman and Walker falsely reported that only $1,000 in cash had been seized from the Annin Street property.
On the witness stand, Thomas said the cops had left his place "ramshacked." Usually, the drug dealers that testify for the prosecution say the cops "ransacked" their homes.
Thomas also told a different story about how much money was allegedly stolen.
"I had money in a sandwich bag," Thomas testified. "Around $10,000 to $15,000."
"I just make a sale that day," he said.
Why didn't you file a complaint with the police so you could try to get your money back, the prosecutor wanted to know.
"Cause it's drug money," Thomas said.
On cross-examination, Thomas told defense lawyer Jack McMahon that he didn't live at the Annin Street property, he just kept drugs there and let his cousin live there rent-free.
"I go over to my house and chill some times," Thomas explained.
The day the cops showed up, Thomas testified, he was chilling with his cousin. He also invited a young woman over and, "I was chilling with her too," the witness told the jury.
The next witness was Victor Rosario, a former West Philadelphia marijuana dealer with a British accent and a conman's gift of gab. On Feb. 3, 2010, Rosario told the jury, he was arrested by former Officers Thomas Liciardello and Brian Reynolds.
That day, Rosario told the jury, he was driving around in a rented Honda Accord with ten pounds of marijuana in his trunk. He was on his way to deliver the dope to a family friend when he was pulled over in a parking lot and arrested by "two big black police officers," the witness said. He identified the two officers as Linwood Norman and Jeffrey Walker.
Asked by the prosecutor what his reaction was to being pulled over by the cops, Rosario replied, "Oh Shit."
At first, Rosario said, the cops told him they pulled him over because he fit the description of a robbery suspect. But after they searched his car and found the marijuana, the witness testified, the cops told him he was in big trouble.
On the witness stand, Rosario claimed that Liciardello told him, "We know freedom is right here if I can make a call."
What they wanted him to do, the witness claimed, was to give up his suppliers. But Rosario told the jury he didn't cooperate. He also told a new story on the witness stand, claiming that Liciardello told him it was "dry out there," and that if he needed weed, the cop supposedly could supply it.
The officers took $5,000 out of his pocket, the witness claimed. Liciardello took his keys, Rosario testified, and gave them to Officer Reynolds.
Officer Reynolds, Rosario said, drove over to his house and ransacked it. He also allegedly stole a Rolex watch worth $5,700 and jewelry from Rosario's house on North St. Bernard St.
And that's not all that was missing.
Rosario said that he stored a collection of Tiffany jewelry at his house that he bought for his girlfriend at the "romantic time of the year."
The cops only reported finding $1,858 in cash. They also found 12 pounds of marijuana and a gun registered to Rosario's girlfriend.
Rosario said he later saw an identical watch on the arm of Officer Brian Reynolds during a court hearing at the Criminal Justice Center. The officer pointed to the watch and mouthed "thank you" the witness claimed.
On cross-examination, Rosario told Jack McMahon about his usual daily routine on the day he got busted.
"I remember everything," the witness assured the defense lawyer.
Rosario told McMahon that on his daily rounds he always looked in on his elderly grandmother, and did favors for her like taking out the trash. In fact, the day he got busted he was on his way to grandma's house.
"I'm well-respected," Rosario assured McMahon. He also told the defense lawyer that he was "very romantic."
"Victor Rosario buys gifts for his lady," Rosario said. But he admitted that he didn't have the receipt for the $5,700 watch.
"I lost it," Rosario claimed.
Why didn't he file a complaint about his missing jewelry, McMahon asked.
"I just left it to karma," Rosario said.
In his opening statement to the jury, McMahon, on behalf of former Officer Reynolds, told the jury that his client bought his Rolex watch on Oct. 6, 2007 with $4,000 borrowed from the Philadelphia Police and Fire Credit Union.
In court today, McMahon showed Rosario pictures of Reynolds in family photos with his children. In the photos, Reynolds was wearing a Rolex watch.
"I didn't say he took it," Rosario responded. "I said it was the same kind of watch."
After a lunch break, Rosario complained to Judge Robreno about the hostile vibes he was supposedly getting from one defendant, as well as one of the defendants' relatives who was a spectator in the courtroom.
"I don't have any acrimony toward anybody in the room," Rosario assured the judge.
Rosario accused former Officer John Speiser of smiling and winking at him. Rosario also accused a relative in the courtroom, Tommy Liciardello's stepfather, of threatening the former drug dealer in an elevator.
"You have something you want to say to me," Rosario said Liciardello's stepfather allegedly told him. Rosario told the judge he replied, "Yes, it's a beautiful day."
"I just feel very threatened," Rosario told the judge. The witness claimed in the elevator that Liciardello's step-father made a threatening gesture toward him, by running his hand under his chin.
Rosario claimed the cops raided his home without a search warrant. While he was being held prisoner, Rosario claimed, the cops called and wanted his security code for the alarm system.
McMahon, however, went over the timing of the events on the night Rosario was arrested and said that court and police records showed Rosario was mistaken.
Rosario was arrested at 5:25 p.m., police records show. At 7:45 p.m., an assistant district attorney approved a search warrant of Rosario's house. By 8 p.m., a bail commissioner had signed off on the search of Rosario's house, which was executed at 9 p.m. by the cops.
Rosario, however, remained unconvinced. He also had some more stories to tell.
Three years after his arrest, Rosario said, he found out that Liciardello had been arrested. To celebrate, Rosario called Liciardello on the cop's cell phone.
The same cell phone number, Rosario said, that Liciardello had given him in hopes that Rosario would give up his suppliers.
"I was gonna pick at him [Liciardello] because he was in trouble," Rosario claimed. But he decided against it, and hung up before Liciardello could answer the phone, the witness told the jury.
On cross-examination, defense lawyer Jimmy Binns inquired about Rosario's breakup with his girlfriend, whose name was on the lease for the apartment that Rosario claimed had been ransacked by the cops. Rosario told the jury he had broken up with his girlfriend because she was cheating on him.
You were in jail for three months after your arrest, Binns reminded Rosario. During that time when your girlfriend was cheating on you, she could have gone in the apartment, brought along anybody she wanted, and taken back her jewelry.
She didn't take her jewelry, Rosario insisted.
Binns went over the last time Rosario saw his Rolex watch. Counting the three months he had been in jail, Binns figured, 13 months had elapsed between the time Rosario claimed he last wore his watch and the time Rosario saw Officer Reynolds wearing a similar watch in court.
You girlfriend could have taken all her jewelry and your watch and traded it in for a gun she bought for you in a straw purchase, Binns suggested.
But the prosecutor objected and the judge sustained the objection.
The last drug dealer to testify was Leonard Salmons.
Salmons told the jury that on Aug. 18, 2010, he sold 200 Percocets to a woman who was a regular customer. He always made his sales in the same place, the witness told the jury, the parking lot of the Hess Gas Station at 34th and Grays Ferry.
"She gets the product, she leaves," the drug dealer said.
A few days later, the same customer wanted more pills.
Salmons told the jury he was on his way to the Hess Gas Station again, carrying $1,100. He was drinking a half pint of Gray Goose, as apparently is his custom. That's when he was arrested by the defendants.
"They told me to get the fuck out of my car," the witness said. Licardello, the witness said, put him in handcuffs.
He was looking at 15-to-20 years in jail, Salmons said. That's when Salmons claimed that Licardello told him, "I better give him somebody."
Salmons testified that he told Licardello, "I don't have nobody to give you."
When he saw a mug shot of Officer Walker in dreadlocks, that's the guy, the witness said.
Salmnons claimed that Officer Walker had sworn out a false statement that claimed he had bought 182 pills from Salmons for $600.
"I never sold to him in my life," Salmons said of Officer Walker, the prosecution's star witness against his former brother officers.
The prosecution's sorry case is expected to wind up Thursday when the trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 15A. Then the defense is expected to parade a bunch of superior officers to the witness stand to testify that all the drug busts the jury has heard about were legitimate jobs. And that the defendants were standup guys.
These are superior officers who supposedly were never interviewed by the feds.
It should be an entertaining story that's expected to start on Friday.
By George Anastasia
Spend all your time in a cesspool and you're going to smell.
That's the assessment of retired Philadelphia Police Captain Al DiGiacomo as he follows the ongoing corruption trial of six narcotics cops in U.S. District Court.
Now a professor of criminal justice at West Chester University, DiGiacomo, 65, has been watching the case unfold from his perch in academia. For the veteran cop the allegations are similar to those that surfaced in two earlier and infamous narcotics squad corruption investigations.
But whether the six defendants in the ongoing case end up disgraced and convicted like members of the Five Squad or the tainted cops of the 39th District is still a very much open question.
The prosecution is expected to rest its case in the four-week trial tomorrow at which point the defense will begin calling witnesses. While it's unlikely any of the defendants will take the stand, the defense has promised to call several top Police Department officials who knew of or who were on the scene for some of the "episodes" detailed in the racketeering indictment that was handed up two years ago.
The six officers are charged with going rogue. The indictment alleges that over a six year period beginning in 2006 they stole $500,000 in cash, drugs and other valuables -- like Rolex and Movado watches -- from drug dealers they had targeted and then falsified police reports to cover their tracks.
Testimony from more than a dozen admitted drug dealers and from one self-admitted dirty cop have provided the jury with a bleak, street-level view of the drug underworld and a more detailed account of the criminal activities alleged in the indictment. It was all part of a cesspool full of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, prescription pills and cash; a world populated by liars and thieves -- some of whom, authorities say, had badges.
The question for the jury is whether the six cops on trial became a part of that world while working in it. Did they bend the rules while building cases and making arrests? Or did they break them?
The police officials -- inspectors, captains, lieutenants and sergeants -- called to testify for the defense are expected to offer a different look at the world described by the prosecution's witnesses. Narcotics cops are a breed apart and that's part of what the defense hopes to show the jury. They work the worst neighborhoods in the city. They spend hours on the job, dressed in street clothes and driving unmarked cars. Their sources are, in many instances, former targets.
It's a labor intensive, time-consuming job that can often be frustrating. Arrest a drug dealer today and he's back on the street tomorrow. Clean up a drug corner this week and next week a new crew is out there peddling dope to the same customers.
"It's a job where there isn't a lot of supervision," said DiGiacomo. "They're pretty much on their own, developing their own cases and going wherever the job takes them."
It's easy, he said, to drift; to lose sight of what the job is; to cut corners and take shortcuts to make cases.
The Police Department, DiGiacomo said, is an institution that values numbers and statistics. Make cases and show a steady arrest record and you are rewarded. The feds have alleged that police officials charged with supervising the Narcotics Field Unit where the six defendants worked looked the other way because the numbers were good.
Drugs and cash were seized. Arrests were made. The feds, of course, allege that false reports and planted evidence supported those arrests. And, they contend, in many cases drugs ended up back on the street and chunks of the cash ended up in the pockets of the arresting officers.
The six defendants, Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser were veterans of the Narcotics Field Unit. Combined, they had more than 60 years working in the squad.
That's a lot of time to spend in a cesspool.
It will be up to the jury to decide whether they were trying to clean it up, or whether, as the prosecution has argued, they were wallowing in it.
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.
If the boys in blue stick together, this case is going to come down to the FBI, Jeffrey Walker and a bunch of drug dealers vs. the Philadelphia Police Department.
The case was a long time ago, Werner said.
Now that the government has rested its case, there's a few mysteries left to ponder.
In their original investigation of the defendants, how could the feds have left so many uncovered bases? How could they have not interviewed all the defendants' fellow cops, especially their superior officers, if the superiors were alleged eyewitnesses to some of the episodes and a party to some of the arrests?
stable of drug dealers.
The obvious problems with that strategy is that Walker is a train wreck, as one defense lawyer put it, and that the drug dealers have obvious credibility problems and factual discrepancies in their stories. And apparently no evidence to corroborate their allegations.
Another flaw in the case is that the drug dealers basically all told the same story on the witness stand over and over again, down to using the same words used to describe the alleged police behavior in the case. The cops ransacked my house, the drug dealers usually said. Except for the one guy who apparently misread the script and said his place was "ram-shacked."
There's plenty of evidence so far for a jury to convict Jeffrey Walker. He's the guy who got caught on camera in an FBI sting operation carrying $15,000 and five pounds of marijuana out of a drug dealer's house. But there's no incriminating undercover audio or video evidence against the defendants. Or any paper trail to implicate them.
Walker's going to be a continuing credibility problem for the feds.
On the witness stand today, defense lawyers took several FBI agents involved in the case through "rough notes" of some of their 45 different interviews with Walker.
With that much material to work with, there's bound to be factual discrepancies for the defense to pick on.
Such as the time Walker told the feds that when he was on the job as a cop, "I tried to be as honest as I could."
And, when Walker got caught planting drugs on a suspect in the FBI sting, he originally told the feds that it was the first time he'd ever planted drugs on anyone. When he appeared in court, however, Walker admitted that he'd planted drugs on people so many times he'd lost count.
Walker also told the feds, "I never stole and gave drugs to anyone."
On cross-examination, the FBI agents told the prosecutor that the statements the defense lawyers singled out were made within two weeks after Walker's arrest. The government is going to have to argue that it took a while for Walker to get around to telling the truth.
The case resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The state Supreme Court today reinstated the conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn on a single charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
On June 22, 2012, a Philadelphia Common Pleas jury convicted Lynn of endangering the welfare of a child, namely a former 10-year-old altar boy dubbed "Billy Doe" by a grand jury. Lynn, the former secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, became the first Catholic administrator in the country to go to jail for failing to adequately supervise a sexually abusive priest. He was sentenced on July 24, 2012 by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to a prison term of 3 to 6 years.
Lynn had served 18 months of his sentence on Dec. 26, 2013, when a panel of three state Superior Court judges unanimously reversed the monsignor's conviction and ordered that he be "released forthwith." The trial judge, however, refused to allow Lynn's release after the D.A. argued that if bail was granted Lynn might flee to the Vatican. For the past 14 months, the monsignor has been held under house arrest in a Northeast Philadelphia rectory and according to Judge Sarmina's conditions must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle at all times.
The 60-page opinion on behalf of four state Supreme Court justices doesn't necessarily mean that the monsignor is headed back to jail to serve out the remainder of his sentence. The case is now remanded back to the state Superior Court where Lynn's lawyers can proceed with an appeal on several remaining trial issues. Such as whether Lynn could have possibly received a fair trial in a case where Judge Sarmina allowed in as evidence 21 supplemental cases of child abuse dating back to 1948, three years before the monsignor was born.
The district attorney, however, could throw a monkey wrench in that appeal process by filing a motion with Judge Sarmina to revoke Lynn's bail. If the D.A. does file that motion to revoke bail, based on Judge Sarmina's previously demonstrated antipathy to Lynn, the monsignor had better have his toothbrush packed.
To Thomas A. Bergstrom, Lynn's lawyer, the "really troubling aspect" of the state Supreme Court opinion was the doing away with the issue of intent.
"It literally gives the prosecution the right to try someone for endangering the welfare of a child that he [Lynn] doesn't even know exists," Bergstrom said. Lynn left the office of secretary for clergy in 2004. Billy Doe came forward five years later, in 2009, to report an abuse that had allegedly happened back in 1998.
Bergstrom now has 14 days to decide whether he will ask the state Supreme Court to reconsider their opinion. Judging from the court's almost unanimous 4-1 front on the case and strong condemnatory language of Lynn, a motion to reconsider may be a waste of time.
Bergstrom also could file a motion to have Lynn's bail continued while the state Superior Court examines the other appeal issues raised concerning Lynn's original trial before Sarmina.
The Supreme Court opinion, written by Justice Max Baer, noted that in 1994, two years after he became secretary for clergy, Msgr. Lynn compiled a list of 35 archdiocese priests then in active ministry with previous complaints of sexual abuse of minors. The first priest on the list was Father Edward V. Avery, an alcoholic with three previous incidents of abuse involving the same altar boy beginning at age 12.
Avery gave the victim his first beer at age 12 and took the altar boy and others from the parish to his home in New Jersey, where he supplied the minors with more alcohol. The boys slept in a loft in Avery's home with several beds. According to archdiocese records, during two or three such encounters, Avery's hand "slipped to" the altar boy's crotch.
In two subsequent incidents, the boy got drunk and fell asleep in Avery's bed. When he awoke, Avery's hands were inside the victim's shorts. In a subsequent ski trip when the victim was 18, Avery joined the victim in bed and after he had fallen asleep, massaged the victim's penis until he ejaculated.
Under Lynn's supervision, Avery was transferred to St. Jerome's, a parish with a grade school where Avery lived while he worked as a chaplain at Nazareth Hospital.
In the Supreme Court opinion, the first 49 pages are basically a rehash of the case. The alleged abuse of Billy Doe is recounted as gospel. It's a fantastic account subsequently contradicted by evidence discovered by the district attorney's own detectives; evidence aired numerous times on this blog.
It's not until the final ten pages of the opinion when the state Supreme Court justices finally divulge their analysis of the case.
The Superior Court's reversal of Lynn's conviction was based on the wording of the state's original 1972 child endangerment law. The law says, "A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."
A previous district attorney, Lynne Abraham, and a previous grand jury, had opined in writing that the state's original child endangerment statute applied to persons who had direct contact with children, such as parents or guardians, as stated in the original law. D.A. Abraham and the previous grand jury said the original law didn't apply to supervisors such as Lynn, who presided over priests who had direct contact with children.
In 2007, the state legislature, at the request of D.A. Abraham, amended the child endangerment law to include supervisors such as Lynn.
While the state Superior Court found that the original law did not apply to Lynn, the state Supreme Court disagreed. The only thing that mattered, the Supreme Court opinion stated, was "whether the evidence sufficed to prove [Lynn's] supervision of the welfare of a child."
"Focusing on the supervision element, the statute is plain and unambiguous that it is not the child that [Lynn] must have been supervising, but the child's welfare, including that of" [Billy Doe], identified in the Supreme Court opinion by his real initials, D.G.
"By requiring supervision of the child's welfare rather than of the child, the statute endeavors to safe-guard the emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of children," the state Supreme Court opinion states. "Simply put, [Lynn] did not safeguard the physical and moral welfare of D.G. by placing Rev. Avery, a known child molester, in a position to molest him."
Lynn, the state Supreme Court said, was the "point man" in the archdiocese regarding allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy. It was his job to protect the welfare of children, the state Supreme Court said. Instead, Lynn transferred Avery and did not tell the priest's new supervisor about Avery's prior abuse. Lynn "took no action to ensure that the abusive priest was kept away from children at his new assignment," the state Supreme Court opinion stated.
Lynn also "did not warn parishioners of St. Jerome's about Rev. Avery, and informed [Avery's] former parishioners that his departure was for health reasons," the state Supreme Court wrote.
In the state Supreme Court opinion, the justices ominously broaden their attack on Lynn to go beyond the specific allegations involved in Avery's alleged abuse of Billy Doe, to hold Lynn accountable for the sins of the archdiocese.
Lynn "suppressed complaints and concerns by the colleagues" of abusive priests such as Avery, the Supreme Court opinion stated. And when contacted by law enforcement in cases involving abusive priests, Lynn "misrepresented facts to thwart their investigation of these priests and their crimes," the Supreme Court wrote.
The state Supreme Court wasn't swayed by the prior written opinions of D.A. Abraham and a previous grand jury, that the original child endangerment law didn't apply to Lynn.
"The decisions of neither the grand jury nor a prior District Attorney prove the meaning of the EWOC [endangering the welfare of a child] statute, which is determined by analyzing the plain language contained therein," the Supreme Court wrote. "What the members of the grand jury or the prior District Attorney believed about the scope of the statute is irrelevant."
The state Supreme Court also disregarded the legislature's rewriting of the child endangerment law in 2007, at the request of D.A. Abraham, to include supervisors. "A subsequent change in language does not retroactively alter the legislative intent that is apparent in the plain language of the prior version of the statute," the state Supreme Court opinion stated.
Lynn's attorneys also argued that the original 1972 child endangerment law had never previously been applied to a supervisor. But the state Supreme Court justices who heard that argument obviously weren't impressed.
"We find this argument to be inconsequential and irrelevant," the state Supreme Court wrote.
Instead, the state Supreme Court opinion relied on a reinterpretation of the meaning of the original law as divined 42 years after the fact. The Supreme Court opinion also says that the three Superior Court judges got it wrong two years ago when they reversed Lynn's conviction.
"The Superior Court erred in holding that the EWOC statute required evidence of direct supervision of children and overturning [Lynn's] conviction on that basis," the state Supreme Court wrote.
In a five-page dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor noted that the question is whether the original 1972 state law was "directed to a person who supervised other people who were responsible for supervising a child's welfare, since there is little evidence that [Lynn] directly supervised the welfare of any child at St. Jerome's Church or elsewhere."
The Crime Code states that its provisions should be "construed according to the fair import of their terms," Saylor noted. But the Crimes Code also states that when the law contains an ambiguity . . . the ambiguity should be resolved in favor of the accused."
"It is true that [Lynn] was obligated to protect children from sexually abusive priests," Saylor wrote. "However, I find persuasive the Superior Court's explanation that this amounted to a duty on the part of [Lynn], which is to be distinguished from supervision."
Justice Saylor also noted that the two examples stated in the original state law -- parents and guardians -- "are in a very different position" from Lynn.
Justice Saylor, in his dissent, also noted that Lynn could not have been validly convicted as an accomplice, because the accomplice statute "requires an intent to promote or facilitate the offense in question."
Lynn "may have been substantially derelict in his obligations," the justice wrote, but when he read the record of the Lynn case, "there were no facts placed before the jury by which it could reasonably conclude [Lynn] affirmatively intended that children's welfare be endangered."