In May, Philadelphia police officers, Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser were acquitted of corruption charges. The six stood accused of robbing drug dealers of cash, drugs and personal effects. The powers-that-be clearly feel that the officers are real, because, though they got their jobs back in July (Betts will be fired again for submitting a hot drug test) along with a full year’s back pay. All are barred from working in the narcotics division. Another sign that the cops are truly guilty has been the overturning of hundreds of convictions stemming from arrests made by the officers.
On Saturday, Common Pleas President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper reversed 158 narcotics convictions based on these rogue cops’ involvement, a single day record for convictions overturned. That brings the total to 559 drug-related cases overturned in state court, due to these six officers and Jeffrey Walker, a former cowboy riding with the Philadelphia PD’s elite Narcotics Field Unit squad. The notorious six are tied to 392 of the convictions. 167 involve Walker, who was knocked by the feds in May 2013 stealing $15,000 from a drug dealer’s home. On July 29th, he was sentenced to 3 ½ years in federal prison. He helped cooperate and testified against his six former comrades.
The majority of the convicts in these cases pleaded guilty, probably thinking they had no chance going up against the Philadelphia police in court. Chief of the Post Conviction Relief Act Unit and Assistant District Attorney Robin Godfrey vaguely explained, “The question isn’t whether these defendants are guilty or innocent. We’re not agreeing to these cases because we think the defendants are innocent. The district attorney is just exercising his discretion to grant relief.”
Jack McMahon, who acted as lead defense attorney, came at the D.A.’s neck with harsh criticisms. He said:
“I just think that the D.A.’s Office got on a politically expedient bandwagon that they [the six narcotics cops] would all be convicted. . . . They made a mistake. Now they’re stuck with what they’ve said and done.”
“These people pled guilty. These people were drug dealers. I just don’t get it. . . . What was wrong with case 1, what was wrong with case 3? They go with a broad brush [overturning these cases].”
More convictions are expected to be overturned in the future. There are also several civil lawsuits against the city of Philadelphia on the way.