On Monday, the prosecutor in the rogue cops case asked the judge to drop a couple of charges from their big indictment after one of the government's alleged victims of police misconduct got busted for drug dealing.
This morning, the U.S. Attorney's office filed a motion to dismiss another couple of charges from the indictment, along with some episodes of alleged police misconduct, presumably because another alleged victim had gone south.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's office had no comment on what's gone wrong in the case where they're scheduled to pick a jury starting Tuesday. A defense lawyer, however, had a few things to say.
"It's not unusual when the government takes a shotgun approach to a case pre-trial and a lot of the charges are reaches, for some of their evidence to implode," said Jeffrey M. Miller, the defense lawyer representing former Police Officer Thomas Liciardello.
Liciardello is currently held without bail in the Special Housing Unit, AKA the SHU and "the hole."
Liciardello, the feds claim, is the alleged ringleader of a band of six rogue cops that allegedly stole more than $500,000 in cash, drugs and personal property from drug dealers. While they were on their robbery spree, the feds charge, the rogue cops beat and kidnapped hapless drug dealers in addition to falsifying police records to cover up their alleged misconduct.
There's a lot riding on this case.
When the feds issued their 26-count federal indictment issued last July, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey called it "one of the worse cases of corruption I have ever heard." The city's top cop was so enraged by the allegations that he announced at a press conference he was planning to destroy the officers' badges.
There's a ton of paperwork in the case: some 90,000 pages of government documents. But while the feds were dropping that paper blizzard a couple of government witnesses have disappeared.
In a motion filed today, the U.S. Attorney's office asked U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno to drop two counts and some alleged episodes of police misconduct from the indictment.
A hearing on the government's motion is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in front of Judge Robreno.
In Episode 13 of the indictment, on March 7, 2010, Officers Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, John Speiser, Michael Spicer and Jeffrey Walker allegedly entered the residence of a person identified as C.C. on Porter Street in South Philadelphia by "kicking in the front door."
C.C. has been identified as Chris Ciragliano.
The indictment states that the officers allegedly seized $3,200 from C.C.'s house. Then on April 18, 2010, according the indictment, Officer Liciardello, attempting "to conceal the theft from authorities," wrote a phony Philadelphia Police Department report that said that only $196 was seized from C.C.
Count 18, which the feds now want to drop from the indictments, lists a false police report filed on April 18, 2010. Count 21, the other count the feds want to drop from the indictment, lists another false police report allegedly being filed on June 24, 2011.
In their motion filed today, the feds also moved to withdraw "W.L." as a victim in Count 2 of the indictment, and get rid of some alleged criminal acts of misconduct as alleged in Paragraphs 81 through 84 of the indictment.
On June 23, 2011, according to the indictment, Officers Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds and Linwood Norman forced their way into a machine shop on Sedgwick Street owned by W.L.
During a police search, Liciardello "kicked W.L. in the teeth, breaking off a portion of his teeth in the upper half of his mouth." The cops also "Kicked W.L. in the groin and hit him with a steel bar in the back of the head."
In addition to beating W.L., the indictment stated, the three cops also seized approximately $41,158 in cash from inside W.L.'s shop. The next day, on June 24, 2011, the indictments states, Liciardello, in order to "conceal the theft and physical abuse of W.L." from authorities, authored a police report that left out the physical abuse of W.L. The phony police report also falsely stated that only $6,650 in cash had been found in the search, according to the indictment. The feds charged Liciardello with failing "to report the additional $34,400 in cash that they had stolen from W.L."
W.L. has been identified as Wayne Layre. On Feb. 25th, Layre got bused along with 31 others as part of a heroin and meth trafficking ring in Montgomery County. That prompted the feds to drop Layre from the case against the narcotics cops. Layre had also has filed a civil suit against the cops that's been put on hold pending the resolution of the criminal case.
While the government continues to whittle away at the charges in the indictment, defense lawyer Miller is having problems all kinds of problems trying to prepare his client to assist in his own defense.
The government served Miller on Monday with 700 pages of rough notes used to prepare FBI witness interview statements known as "302s," as well as police interviews in the case.
On Wednesday, Miller said, he dropped off copies of the 700 pages at the SHU for Liciardello to read. On Thursday, prison officials had still not given the documents to Miller's client.
In 25 years of working as a defense lawyer, Miller says, Liciardello is the first client's he's ever had who's being held at the SHU. The other five defendants in the case have all been released on bail.
Under prison regulations, Miller said, Liciardello was only allowed to make one phone call a week to his lawyer, to help prepare for trial. Before Liciardello could make the call, however, Miller said, it had to be approved in advance by prison officials.
After Miller complained to the judge, prison officials relented.
Now, Miller said, Liciardello gets to make two calls a week to his lawyer. But they still have to be approved in advance.
"It's just not fair," the defense lawyer said.