Friday, April 24, 2015

Defense To Rely On Top Cops To Refute Drug Dealers

By Ralph Cipriano

It took four weeks for the government to finally run out of drug dealers.

After sending a parade of 16 drug dealers to the witness stand, the government this morning rested its case against six former narcotics officers accused of going rogue by allegedly  beating and robbing the suspects they busted.

The defense then began its case by calling FBI Agent Dennis Drum to the witness stand.

Defense Attorney Jack McMahon took Drum through a list of 15 superior officers and fellow officers in the case who supposedly were eyewitnesses to the various "episodes" of alleged police misconduct in the indictment. 

Drum testified that a dozen of the cops were interviewed by the feds between three and seven months after the defendants in the case were indicted on July 30, 2014. Two of the cops were never interviewed; a third refused to talk.

The defense strategy seems to be to call as many of these officers to the witness stand as possible to refute the allegations made by the drug dealers who testified on behalf of the government. The list of possible witnesses include a chief inspector, an inspector, a captain, a couple of lieutenants, a sergeant, a corporal and some fellow officers.

If the boys in blue stick together, this case is going to come down to the FBI, Jeffrey Walker and a bunch of drug dealers vs. the Philadelphia Police Department.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Narcotics Cops Work In A Cesspool

By George Anastasia

Spend all your time in a cesspool and you're going to smell.

That's the assessment of retired Philadelphia Police Captain Al DiGiacomo as he follows the ongoing corruption trial of six narcotics cops in U.S. District Court.

Now a professor of criminal justice at West Chester University, DiGiacomo, 65, has been watching the case unfold from his perch in academia. For the veteran cop the allegations are similar to those that surfaced in two earlier and infamous narcotics squad corruption investigations.

But whether the six defendants in the ongoing case end up disgraced and convicted like members of the Five Squad or the tainted cops of the 39th District is still a very much open question.

The prosecution is expected to rest its case in the four-week trial tomorrow at which point the defense will begin calling witnesses. While it's unlikely any of the defendants will take the stand, the defense has promised to call several top Police Department officials who knew of or who were on the scene for some of the "episodes" detailed in the racketeering indictment that was handed up two years ago.

"Ram-Shacked" At The Rogue Cops Trial

By Ralph Cipriano

As the prosecution in the rogue cops trial winds down its case, they're scraping the bottom of the barrel for witnesses.

One drug dealer on the witness stand today confessed that he had two different names.

Another drug dealer testifying on behalf of the government who was unsteady on his feet looked and smelled like he may have been drinking his favorite beverage again, Grey Goose Vodka.

Meanwhile, Judge Eduardo C. Robreno announced that the trial was moving much faster than expected, and that the prosecution would be winding down its case this week. As rumors swept the courtroom that one of the reasons why was that another unreliable prosecution witness was about to be ejected from the case.

The government has already had to drop a couple of witnesses; one drug dealer because he got arrested again, another drug dealer because he got caught lying under oath. So it would be no surprise if a third prosecution witness gets the boot. Since there's a gag order in the case, none of the lawyers can comment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

More Witnesses, More Stories Of Corruption, More Questions About Credibility In Rogue Cops Case

By George Anastasia

They came dressed in black, waving their guns and hiding their faces behind ski masks.

They wanted to know where the drugs and money were and when he didn't tell them he said they threatened to take his five young children away from him.

He spent the night in a police lockup without being charged and then, he said, he was literally held hostage over the next five days in a hotel near the airport, forced to give up the names of drug dealers he knew and to set up buys so that they could be arrested.

That was the story, told through a Spanish interpreter, that Rodolfo Blanco told a federal jury today in the trial of six Philadelphia Police Department narcotics cops accused of stealing more than $500,000 in cash and drugs from targeted dealers in what Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has called one of the worst cases of police corruption in the city's history.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Otter Defense

By Ralph Cipriano

We're entering our fourth week in the rogue cops trial, and so far the poster boy has been Jeffrey Walker.

He's the dirty cop who got caught red-handed in an FBI sting operation walking out of a drug dealer's house with $15,000 and five pounds of marijuana. The drunk who showed up loaded at work and got so bombed at his favorite bar every night that he passed out while drooling on himself. The office screw-up who dozed off during stake-outs, bailed on a raid because he needed a hit of Milk of Magnesia; the bumbler who forgot where he left his gun.

Meanwhile, over at the defense table sits Tommy Licardello. If the prosecution's story line is to believed, Liciardello was the dark criminal mastermind who knew how to placate the department brass with headline-grabbing busts while he and his gang were beating and ripping off drug dealers. An amoral, ruthless bandit with a badge so slick he supposedly knew how to hide the booty from the feds, eluding sting operations and FBI accountants.

The jury seems to have gotten their fill of Jeffrey Walker. When the marshalls led him away in handcuffs last week after three days on the witness stand, every juror I saw was looking the other way. Meanwhile, the jury has only seen and will probably never hear from Tommy Licardello. All the jury knows about Liciardello, the pale guy at the defense table being held in solitary confinement, is a bunch of allegations from some drug dealers. As for the rest of the defendants, as far as the testimony goes, it's hard to tell Michael Spicer from John Speiser. They're just a bunch of anonymous RICO conspirators.

The feds, already guilty of sloppy detective work in the rogue cops case, can also be faulted for bad story-telling.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Soldiers In The War On Drugs Or Urban Bandits With Badges?

By George Anastasia

Disgraced narcotics cop Jeffrey Walker spent three days on the witness stand this week in the federal corruption trial of six fellow officers.

Depending on  your perspective, Walker provided either the high or the low point of the now three week-old trial. By his own admission, he was a liar, cheat and thief during most of his 24 years with the Philadelphia Police Department. But that's a description he and federal prosecutors say that also fits the six members of the Narcotics Field Unit sitting at the defense table in U.S. District Court.

Planting drugs, stealing cash and narcotics, falsifying reports and lying in court were all part of a day's work  in the unit, Walker said.

When the indictment in this case was handed down last year Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey called it one of the worst cases of corruption in the department's history. A more troubling possibility, and one hinted at by the feds, is that the dark side of law enforcement that has been the theme of this prosecution is SOP in narcotics squads.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Gun And A Bottle Of Tequila

By Ralph Cipriano

Police Officer Jeffrey Walker had parked his car in his garage and left the engine running. He'd brought along a gun and a bottle of tequila.

Despondent over his failed marriage, Walker hadn't figured out yet whether he wanted to end it with carbon monoxide or a gunshot. In the meantime, he had his tequila.

Asked if he was going to commit suicide that day back in 2002, the 46-year-old Walker replied, "I was going down that road."

Then, Walker said, his girlfriend showed up and talked him into going to the emergency room at Lankenau Hopsital. On medical records displayed in the courtroom, Walker's "chief complaint" was listed as "suicidal, depressed." His diagnosis: depression.

Walker was taken by ambulance to the psychiatric ward at Bryn Mawr Hospital, the medical records showed. It would have been just another chapter in the life of the government's star witness at the rogue cops trial, a star witness one defense lawyer has aptly described as a train wreck. Except that Walker had made a big deal out of telling the jury that when he became a government witness he finally stopped lying.

The hitch was, the day he signed his cooperation agreement with the government, the judge had asked Walker if he'd ever been hospitalized or treated for mental illness. Walker's answer was no. To defense lawyer Jeffrey Miller, this was proof that Walker was still lying.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Punching Bag In Courtroom 15A

By Ralph Cipriano

At the start of his cross-examination, Jack McMahon greeted the prosecution's star witness with a slap upside the head.

"I'd appreciate it if you look at me when I talk," the defense lawyer admonished Jeffrey Walker.

McMahon, a flashy former prosecutor with a white mustache and a shaved head, then spent the next six hours pummeling the witness.

On the receiving end, Walker, a big bearded former narcotics cop who entered the courtroom wearing handcuffs and a drab green prison jumpsuit, seemed used to taking abuse.

"We know you were a thief, right?" McMahon asked the fallen cop that another defense lawyer has characterized to the jury as a train wreck.

"Yes, I was," Walker admitted.

"You're a thief and a historical liar," McMahon added.

"I lie," Walker admitted. "I continued my thievery until I was arrested."


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