Police charity reverses course, won’t honor acquitted cops

 Six former Philadelphia police officers acquitted of corruption charges were going to lead a parade for the annual Thrill Show fundraiser -- until a storm of criticism hit organizers.  They are (clockwise from top left) Thomas Liciardello, Perry Betts, Norman Linwood, John Speiser, Brian Reynolds, and Michael Spicer.

Six former Philadelphia police officers acquitted of corruption charges were going to lead a parade for the annual Thrill Show fundraiser -- until a storm of criticism hit organizers. They are (clockwise from top left) Thomas Liciardello, Perry Betts, Norman Linwood, John Speiser, Brian Reynolds, and Michael Spicer.

Organizers of a popular Philadelphia police charity say they’ve decided not to use their annual fundraiser to honor the six former officers recently acquitted of corruption.

They have chosen, instead, a less controversial figure to serve as their grand marshal: Cathy Burke, owner of the Irish Pub in Atlantic City, who’s well known for her many philanthropic contributions.

It was a quiet reversal for the organizers of the Hero Thrill Show, which for decades has raised money for scholarships for the children of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

Typically, it’s an all-day affair at the sports complex featuring music, food and daredevil displays. Controversy isn’t usually on the agenda. But this year, organizers decided to include a parade down Broad Street featuring the six former officers riding in six white Bentley convertibles.

Thrill Show CEO James Binns, an attorney who defended one of the six, detailed the planned parade for the legal blog Big Trial, saying that “it’s time that [the six] were recognized as the heroes they are.”

Binns was adamant that the outcome of the trial, in which prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of convicted drug dealers and an admittedly corrupt police officer, represented full exoneration for the former officers.

“I don’t see how any reasonable, fair-minded individual could have the slightest doubt about their innocence if you were there and heard the testimony,” he told Big Trial.

However, not everyone shares Binns’ confidence. The six were were fired by Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey after being charged with a long list of racketeering and drug offenses. Ramsey called theirs “one of the worst cases of corruption I have ever heard.” Hundreds of the six officers’ cases have been thrown out of court, and Ramsey has vowed to keep them off the force if possible.

After news of the planned parade hit social media this week, Binns decided that the six officers won’t serve as grand marshals after all.

He didn’t want to comment on that decision, but did confirm that Burke will be the replacement. The Hero Thrill Show takes place in October.

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