After dramatic ending, Philly police corruption case goes to jury

 The trial of six former Philadelphia police officers accused of corruption began Monday. They are (clockwise from top left) Thomas Liciardello, Perry Betts, Norman Linwood, John Speiser, Brian Reynolds, and Michael Spicer. (NewsWorks Image)

The trial of six former Philadelphia police officers accused of corruption began Monday. They are (clockwise from top left) Thomas Liciardello, Perry Betts, Norman Linwood, John Speiser, Brian Reynolds, and Michael Spicer. (NewsWorks Image)

As the weeks-long trial of six top Philadelphia police officers on corruption charges enters its final phase, defense attorneys spent hours on Wednesday portraying the prosecution’s case as flimsy at best.

It was the last chance defense attorneys had to persuade a federal jury that the case against the officers is riddled with inconsistencies.

“The investigation was disingenuous in the extreme,” attorney Jimmy Binns told the jurors. “They’re not only not guilty, they’re innocent heroes.”

In describing the government’s case, Binns reached as far as “Hamlet,” saying they’ve hoisted themselves with their own petard.

In other, more modern words: their evidence is blowing up in their face.

The accused officers, he said, “have been besmirched on the basis of no evidence.”

Closing arguments from the defense team following Binns were far less Shakespearean, but no less dramatic.

Attorney Michael Diamondstein rapidly paced around the courtroom, his voice rising with his indignance.

“Unconscionable, appalling,” is how he described the charges against the cops, pointing out contradicting testimony and suspicious evidence.

He made his client, officer John Speiser, stand up while describing how Speiser lives paycheck to paycheck, how his home is in foreclosure and how Speiser risked his life every day of his job. “They spent this whole trial dehumanizing him,” Diamondstein said.

Federal prosecutors portrayed the defense team’s closing arguments as noise, saying it’s all part of an age-old strategy to attack the case and distract jurors from the facts.

Prosecutors allege that the cops stole about half a million dollars from drug dealers and made up reports to frame suspects as part of a six-year cover-up scheme ending in 2012.

In an FBI sting, one of the officers, Jeffrey Walker, stole $15,000 and planted drug evidence on an undercover federal agent.

In another instance cited on Wednesday, police smashed through a residence with a sledgehammer before hanging a drug dealer over a third-floor balcony while threatening him. That drug dealer says the six cops robbed him.

Dozens of convictions that arose from the work of the six officers have been overturned.

The officers knew the drug dealers were flush with money and had no recourse when they were  robbed, prosecutors said.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, a 47-year law enforcement veteran, has said it is “one of the worst cases of police corruption I have ever seen.”

Jurors will begin deliberations Thursday. 

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