Thursday, April 2, 2015
It was a police raid on a drug dealer holed up in his condo on North Front Street. The cop used a sledgehammer to bust open the window on a steel door, so he could reach through the broken glass and turn the handle.
Moments later, the cop allegedly had marijuana dealer Jason Kennedy handcuffed and dangling over a third-floor balcony rail.
"He hung me over the balcony railing" some 30 feet above the ground, Kennedy told a federal jury. "I was up over the balcony like he was gonna drop me."
The cop asked "If I wanted to go head-first or feet-first, Kennedy testified. "I said feet-first and he said, 'You're not such a dumb fuck after all.' "
That's the story Kennedy told today in federal court. His assailant, he charged, was sledgehammer wielding former Police Officer Michael Spicer. Kennedy was one of three drug dealers who testified in court today about allegedly being robbed by a squad of six former Philadelphia narcotics officers. The question is whether the white suburban jury sitting in judgment will have more sympathy for cowboy narcs out there waging the war on drugs, or for the drug dealers they allegedly robbed and terrorized.
On Feb. 24, 2010, Jason Kennedy was waiting for a customer to stop by to buy some marijuana. The customer called when he was at the front door of Kennedy's 16-unit condo, so Kennedy buzzed him upstairs.
Kennedy came out of his apartment and the door locked automatically behind him. He peered through the safety glass window on a steel door opening on his floor to see if the buyer was out there. Instead, he saw someone he didn't know ducking down below the window.
The next thing that happened, Kennedy testified, was "I saw the sledgehammer" busting through the window shattering glass.
"I thought I was getting robbed," Kennedy told the jury. He had no idea that the guy in plainclothes wielding the sledgehammer was a cop.
Kennedy said he pulled out his keys to frantically unlock his apartment door. And just as he was dashing inside, Kennedy testified, Officer Spicer stuck his hand inside the door. So Kennedy "slammed the door" on Spicer's hand.
Spicer got angry about that, Kennedy said. A brief fight ensued.
"Officer Spicer punched me in the mouth," Kennedy said. The punch loosened a tooth. Then, the cop "was motioning like he was gonna hit me in the face with a sledgehammer," Kennedy said. That's when the drug dealer decided to give up.
The cop, Kennedy said, handcuffed his arms behind his back. Then he asked where Kennedy was keeping the guns and the cocaine.
Kennedy said he replied that he never had guns or coke in his life. Next, Kennedy testified, the cop "pushed me out there" on the balcony. Only then, Kennedy said, on the way out to the balcony did Officer Spicer identify himself as a cop. That was before he dangled Kennedy over the balcony.
Kennedy said the cop told him "all this could go away" if he would become a cooperator and tell the narcs who his suppliers were. Kennedy told the jury he had six pounds of marijuana stashed in his condo and $210,000 in cash. But he refused to cooperate.
"I was about to go make another buy," he said when Officer Spicer stopped by. Instead, he spent eight days in jail. When he got out, he testified, he went home and discovered, "My house was destroyed."
On a police report the cops listed only $130,970 that they recovered in cash when they raided the drug dealer's condo. Kennedy told the jury the cops stole the rest of the money he had stashed in his condo, some $80,000, plus a Calvin Klein suit.
On cross-examination, Jack McMahon, the defense lawyer for former Officer Brian Reynolds, quizzed Kennedy about the anti depressant and serotonin inhibitor drugs he was on.
That gave Kennedy a chance to talk about the severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression that he had allegedly suffered since his encounter with Officer Spicer.
McMahon pointed out that Kennedy was breaking the law by dealing drugs. And one of the drawbacks of being a drug dealer McMahon said, was the risk of narcotics officers raiding your condo.
Does that risk include "getting hung over a balcony," Kennedy asked McMahon.
McMahon asked if Kennedy would have let Officer Spicer in if he had known he was a cop.
Yep, Kennedy claimed, if only he knew would have let Officer Spicer in through the front door.
He didn't say he would have also baked a cake.
In the courtroom, relatives of the defendants snickered.
McMahon asked Kennedy about his alleged injuries after the fight with Officer Spicer. Did he bleed, the defense lawyer wanted to know. Did he have any facial wounds?
"My tooth went through my lip," Kennedy said. After Officer Spicer punched him in the face, Kennedy said, he fell backwards and hit the back of his head on a hard tile floor.
Did you have a huge lump, McMahon asked. Yes, Kennedy replied, he did have a "huge lump on the back of his head." Of course, Kennedy said, "My hair was covering it."
"On your head," McMahon cracked, running one hand over his own bald head.
The jury laughed.
McMahon seemed intent on pinning Kennedy down on his alleged wounds, possibly because he planned to show the jury some police mug shots of Kennedy with no discernible injuries. But it was almost 4:30, and Judge Eduardo Robreno brought down the curtain for the day.
Earlier, Michael Lau, another marijuana dealer, testified to the jury that the narcs arrested him on June 7, 2010 after they caught him getting into a car at 10th and Race carrying two pounds of marijuana and a duffel bag containing between $10,000 and $13,000. But the cops didn't take any of that.
While Lau was in jail, however, the cops raided his mother's apartment, where Lau was staying, and stole $35,000 in cash, the drug dealer said. He hid the money in a shopping bag stashed inside his third-floor bedroom, he told the jury.
Lau wound up pleading guilty to selling marijuana and was placed on probation. A year later, the same cops, he said, arrested him again. This time when he pleaded guilty he got five years probation. That's when he decided to give up the drug business.
On cross-examination, Jack McMahon asked Lau how long he had been dealing drugs. Lau told the defense lawyer he had only been dealing "approximately a couple of months" before he got arrested.
McMahon quizzed Lau about why he decided to go into the drug business.
"Money," Lau deadpanned.
How did he find suppliers?
"Ask around," he said.
Who's your supplier, McMahon wanted to know.
"Don't know his name," Lau said.
"What did he look like," McMahon asked.
"Asian," Lau said.
Lau said he only made 30 to 50 drug transactions during his entire career. Most deals were smalltime, such as selling a quarter of a pound of marijuana for $1,000 that he bought for $600, making a $400 profit.
Adding insult to injury, the prosecution called Lau's mother as a witness. Nancy Lau testified she had no idea her son was a drug dealer. The cops who raided her house, she said, told her she might be evicted. The cops also told her she might lose her job as a clerk in Family Court, Lau testified.
After her son got out of jail and came home, his mother was "very mad," Nancy Lau testified. "He wasn't allowed back."
The feds also summoned Gabriel Levin, Lau's former defense lawyer, as a witness. Levin told the jury that after his second arrest for dealing marijuana, Lau told his lawyer that the cops had robbed him. But he couldn't remember much else.
On cross-examination, Levin admitted to the FBI that Lau had said the cops stole "something like $20,000."
"It was a long time ago," Levin said. "I have no idea if it's true," he told another defense lawyer, Jeffrey Miller, on cross-examination. "That's what he [Lau] told me."
Levin has since given up criminal law.
The other prosecution witness who testified today was former marijuana dealer Ian Bates.
On December 7, 2009, Bates said, he was enjoying his own product when he heard a knock on the door. He was expecting a friend. Instead, he opened the door and saw four narcs dressed in plainclothes.
"They told me they could smell marijuana," Bates told the jury.
Bates showed the cops a metal box on the floor containing $86,000. "I was hoping they would take it and leave," he said.
But that wasn't all the money he had. He also had $30,000 stuffed in his guitar case, he testified. And $12,000 on a nightstand.
"I was going to buy 20 pounds of marijuana," he said. He already had nine pounds in a duffel bag.
On their arrest report, the cops claimed they had only found $65,000 in his place. They kept the rest, some $60,000, Bates claimed.
Why didn't you file a complaint, the prosecutor wanted to know.
It would have been "my word against theirs," Bates said.
A subsequent bust convinced Bates to give up being a drug dealer. He now works as a waiter, he told the jury.
On cross-examination, Bates told defense lawyer McMahon that he got tired of dealing with shady characters.
"Not everyone's always honest," Bates said.
"We can agree on something," McMahon said.
McMahon asked if there was any proof to back up Bates' story about all the money he had supposedly lying around in his apartment, any witnesses to back up his claim that the narcs had robbed him.
"No one else on earth can testify to this except you the drug dealer," McMahon asked.
"Yes," Bates said.
Defense lawyer Jeffrey Miller asked Bates about his decision to cooperate with police after they busted him a second time. Was it a difficult decision to make? Did he come to some epiphany?
Bates said after sitting there for 20 minutes in handcuffs he made the reluctant decision to give up "his friends and business associates" in exchange for his freedom.
The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.