Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Inky Editorial Board: Exonerated Narcotics Officers Still Guilty

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Sometimes a journalist can make the mistake of falling in love with a story. Even when it turns out to be not true.

That seems to be what's happened over at The Philadelphia Inquirer, in the case of the six former members of the city's Narcotics Field Unit.

After a seven-week trial a jury in May found the officers not guilty on all 47 charges of a 26-count RICO indictment that alleged conspiracy, deprivation of civil rights, robbery, extortion, carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, falsification of records, and aiding and abetting.

To recap, the jury heard all the evidence in the case and 47 times the jury foreman told the judge that the verdict was not guilty on every charge.

But at the Inquirer, the editorial board keeps on serving up sour grapes about the case, while rehashing disproven allegations and nasty quotes at the heart of a defamation lawsuit filed by the acquitted cops and one of their superior officers. The conduct of the newspaper has left lawyers for the cops scratching their heads and wondering what is going on.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Sixth Narcotics Officer Files Libel Claim

By Ralph Cipriano
Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer
for BigTrial.net

The sixth defendant in the so-called "rogue cops" case has filed a libel and defamation claim against District Attorney R. Seth Williams, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, and Mayor Michael Nutter.

Officer Linwood Norman filed a writ of summons Thursday in Common Pleas Court notifying the city that he was suing the three officials.

Norman's suit follows an amended defamation claim filed last week in federal court against the same three city officials on behalf of the other five defendants in the rogue cops case -- Officers Michael Spicer, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, John Speiser and Thomas Liciardello -- as well as the group's former supervisor, Lt. Robert Otto.

Now all six defendants who beat the rap are suing the city for defamation.

"Officer Norman was one of the six allegedly 'sick scumbags' referred to by Mayor Nutter after the indictment and he was one of the six officers who apparently was so contemptible and despicable according to Commissioner Ramsey that his badge needed to be melted," said Christopher D. Mannix, the lawyer who filed both lawsuits on behalf of the former narcotics officers and their supervisor.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Judge Finds Jeffrey Walker A "Truthful And Credible" Witness

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Judge Eduardo Robreno today described Jeffrey Walker, the dirty cop-turned government cooperator, as a "truthful and credible" witness. What's more, the judge said, Walker's testimony withstood the "crucible" of cross-examination by a half-dozen skilled defense lawyers.

The jury, however, didn't see it that way on May 14th when they rejected Walker's testimony and acquitted six defendants on all 47 counts of a RICO indictment.

But an undeterred Judge Robreno approved a downward departure in the sentencing guidelines for Walker, and gave him 42 months in jail. The judge squared his findings that Walker was truthful and credible with the jury verdict by saying there was a difference between being found not guilty and being innocent.

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Rogue" Cops Sue Rufus, Ramsey & Nutter For Defamation

 Three "Grandstanding" Public Officials Targeted In "Laughable" Prosecution
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Five of the "rogue" cops who won their jobs back, as well as their supervisor, have filed a  defamation and false light suit against District Attorney R. Seth Williams, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, and Mayor Michael A. Nutter.

The suit seeks monetary and punitive damages for the irresponsible "grandstanding" done by Williams, Ramsey and
Nutter in the rogue cops case, according to an amended complaint filed July 24th in U.S. District Court by Philadelphia lawyer Christopher D. Mannix.

The lawsuit, the most entertaining court file I've read in years, has been ignored so far by the Inquirer, and confined to just four paragraphs near the bottom of a 34-paragaph story in today's Daily News about the sentencing of Jeffrey Walker, the government's star witness. But the defamation lawsuit for the first time tells the back story behind the rogue cops case only whispered about at trial -- a petty turf battle between law enforcement agencies allegedly feuding over drug forfeiture money and credit for drug busts. It was a feud supposedly set off by the blunt personality of Officer Thomas Liciardello, the former leader of the Narcotics Field Unit.

The amended complaint also shines an unflattering spotlight on the inner workings of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office its dealings with the media, especially a cozy relationship with Fox 29.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Defense Lawyer: Father Andy Wasn't Suspended For Sexual Misconduct; He Also Passed A Polygraph Test

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Contrary to popular belief, Father Andrew McCormick was never suspended by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for sexual misconduct. The priest also passed a lie detector test.

So wrote Trevan Borum, the priest's defense lawyer, in a motion for mistrial filed during Father Andy's second criminal trial that ended March 11th with a hung jury. At the time the motion for a mistrial was filed, the case was under a gag order.

The defense lawyer's claim about the priest's suspension contradicts what was said about Father Andy at trial by a key prosecution witness as well as the prosecutor. It also contradicts a Philadelphia Daily News story.

The defense lawyer's claim about Father Andy passing a lie detector test contradicts a civil lawsuit filed July 10th against the priest by the alleged victim in the criminal case.

When asked for comment, Borum would only say, "I was disappointed that the rules of fair play meant nothing when trying to convict a priest by any means necessary."

A spokesperson for the district attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Jimmy Binns Vs. The Daily News

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

In one corner, we have Helen Ubinas, a Philadelphia Daily News columnist who can't believe those "rogue cops" got their jobs back. She wants to know why our top city officials who previously did so much political grandstanding  in this case don't have much to say about it anymore.

In the other corner we have Jimmy Binns, the veteran defense lawyer who not only represented Rocky on the silver screen but also Michael Spicer, one of the rogue cops who beat the rap and got his job back. The same Jimmy Binns who publicly predicted to Judge Eduardo Robreno at a bail hearing last August that his guy would beat all the charges and walk out of federal court a free man.

In her July 15th column, Ubinas wrote about how Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the guy who described the rogue cops scandal as "one of the worst cases of corruption" that he ever heard, sounded like a beaten puppy when she talked to him. After all six cops were acquitted by a jury on all 47 counts, Ramsey told Ubinas, "It was just a matter of time" before they got their jobs back . . . That's our system, unfortunately."

Ubinas wrote Binns an email seeking a copy of the arbitrator's decision that reinstated the six former narcotics officers. Binns responded by writing Big Trial a letter where he ripped Ubinas's column as "silly" and the "naive musings" of a "know-nothing" reporter and her editors.

As a public service, Big Trial will attempt to mediate this dispute and make everybody happy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

This Time It's About The Money

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

At both of Father Andrew McCormick's criminal trials, the alleged victim in the case, as well as the prosecutor, made a point of saying that the victim who claimed he was sexually abused as a 10-year-old altar boy wasn't in it for the money.

That's why he hadn't filed a civil suit, the victim said on the witness stand at both trials.

On March 6, 2014, at Father Andy's first trial, the priest's defense lawyer, William J. Brennan, cautioned the jury that although the alleged victim had not yet filed a civil suit against the archdiocese, "I don't know what he's gonna do tomorrow."

If people keep telling you, "It's not about the money, it's about the money," Brennan told the jury.

On July 10, the alleged victim in the case fulfilled Brennan's prophecy by filing a civil suit in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, John Doe v. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Msgr. William Lynn, and Father Andrew McCormick.

Both of Father Andy's trials ended in deadlocked juries. On April 10th, after the second mistrial in 14 months, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp told Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright that the D.A.'s office would not retry the case a third time. But now the alleged victim is after Father Andy in the civil courts. And in the civil complaint, "John Doe" is seeking damages of more than $50,000, plus punitive damages.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Billy Doe Part of Rolling Stone Libel Suit Over False Rape Story

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Lawyers in a nationally prominent libel suit pitting a University of Virginia dean against Rolling Stone magazine are sparring in court over the veracity of Billy Doe.

Billy Doe is a grand jury's pseudonym for a former Northeast Philly altar boy who claimed he was raped by two priests and and a Catholic school teacher. Billy's allegations at two historic criminal trials here in Philadelphia sent his three alleged assailants in jail, as well as Msgr. William J. Lynn, for not preventing the alleged abuse.

The libel suit that seeks $7.5 million was brought by Associate Dean Nicole P. Eramo of UVA over the November 2014 publication by Rolling Stone of "A Rape on Campus; A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice At UVA." The article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, since retracted, claimed that "Jackie," a student at the University of Virginia, had been allegedly gang-raped by seven men at a fraternity party. Eramo's lawsuit calls the story a "monumental hoax."

But it may not be the reporter's only screwup. Three years before she wrote about Jackie for Rolling Stone, Erdely wrote a story about Billy for Rolling Stone that accepted as gospel Doe's fantastic rape claims. The article was titled, "The Catholic Church's Sex-Crime Files: How a scandal in Philadelphia exposed documents that reveal a high-level conspiracy to cover up decades of sexual abuse."

In the legal complaint filed by Dean Eramo in the Circuit Court of the city of Charlottesville, VA, the plaintiff's lawyers wrote that "Following the debunking of 'A Rape on Campus,' Newsweek examined the Billy Doe story, determining that 'the factual discrepancies in Jackie's story are dwarfed by the factual discrepancies in Billy's story" and also "noting Billy Doe's 'astonishing lack of credibility."


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