Three of the six Philadelphia police officers accused in a conspiracy to steal from alleged drug dealers will be under house arrest while awaiting their trial.
Thomas Liciardello’s wife swayed and sobbed in her seat as U.S. Magistrate Tim Rice decided Monday afternoon her husband will remain in prison while awaiting trial. Liciardello is suspected of leading the conspiracy to rip off drug dealers in the city to the tune of $500,000.
Three other officers — Linwood Norman, Perry Betz and Brian Reynolds — are not a threat to the public, Rice ruled. They were allowed to post property and remain on house arrest while preparing for their trial.
Attorney Jack McMahon, who represents Reynolds, said federal prosecutors do not have a strong case against the six narcotics officers who have been indicted on charges of using violence and falsifying police reports to steal everything from drugs and cash to Rolex watches from the drug dealers they arrested. U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger has said six resorted to extreme violence to force the drug dealers to give up their cash and valuables.
“We believe that the weight of the evidence is suspect, we look forward to our day in court, and we really believe that eventually Mr. Reynolds will be vindicated,” McMahon said Monday. Referring to Jeffrey Walker, an officer who testified against the six, McMahon said, “This was a desperate cop.”
Of the alleged drug dealers who supplied testimony, McMahon said, “We have 11 different people whose criminal histories are not favorable to police. And when we put the two together and the jury is able to see all the facts of the case instead of allegations, we eventually will be successful.”
The attorney representing Perry Betts, another of the officers granted house arrest, also questioned the credibility of Walker and others testifying against the officers.
“There’s no corroborating evidence,” said Greg Pagano. “The kind of evidence you would look for in a case like this would be wiretaps, videotapes … he kind of evidence they have against Police Officer Walker, he was caught with the money in his pocket, the FBI’s money. He had no place to run, no place to hide but to implicate these defendants.”
Federal prosecutors argued that the men shouldn’t be given special treatment because they are police officers.
Officer Michael Spicer, another of the six, was held without bail during a separate hearing with Magistrate Richard Lloret, who agreed that Spicer does represent a threat. The sixth defendant, John Speiser, will have a bail hearing next week.