After a monthlong trial, a federal jury has found six former Philadelphia narcotics squad officers not guilty of more than 20 charges, rejecting claims that the officers stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from drug dealers.
After the jury foreman read out “not guilty” for all 26 charges against the six cops, the courtroom erupted in cheers, with attorneys and family members embracing and shedding tears of joy.
Defense attorney Jack McMahon said using drug dealers as main witnesses, as the prosecution did, was a bad move.
“Drug dealers are inherently not truthful people. They’re schemers. And they’re good at hiding the truth,” he said.
The other defense attorneys echoed MaMahon’s sentiment.
“These men should have never been charged in the first place,” said defense attorney Greg Pagano. “It’s shocking the government would even bring a case like this.”
The federal indictment against the cops accused them of planting drug evidence to force convictions. As a result of the charges, a state judge reversed more than 50 convictions that arose form the work of disgraced former Officer Jeffrey Walker, who became a key witness for the government when he testified against his former colleagues.
In a statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says it is disappointed but respects the jury’s decision. It notes that Philadelphia’s federal prosecutors won’t be deterred from going after police corruption in the future.
The defendants cleared of charges include Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, Michael Spicer, Linwood Norman and John Speiser.
After the verdict, Speiser described the trial as “pure hell,” saying the prosecutors case was based on lies.
“I was scared to death at first because I didn’t know what the jury would decide,” Speiser said. “People asked several times ‘do you believe in the system? Does the system work?’ The system does not work. The 12 jurors, that’s what worked.”
Michael Diamondstein, who, during dramatic closing arguments, described the charges against the cops as “unconscionable,” went a step further outside of the courtroom on Thursday.
“The things that were said about these honorable men and police officers over the last eight to ten months were ridiculous,” said defense attorney Michael Diamondstein. “A lot of people in this city own these heroes an apology.”