Thursday, April 23, 2015
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.
The day began with the cross-examination of Kenneth Williams, a former state trooper and self-confessed marijuana user.
On Tuesday, Williams told the jury that the defendants broke down the door of his home on North 51st Street on June 30, 2010 and seized $16,200. That included $14,000 that Williams claimed he had hidden in a suit pocket in his bedroom. A police report, however, said the cops only found $2,413 in cash.
The bulk of the $14,000, Williams said on direct testimony, came from a worker's comp settlement. Asked why he didn't keep the $14,000 in a bank, Williams told the prosecutor on Tuesday, "I had an issue with family court."
"You were hiding the money?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Wzorek asked.
"I was in arrears in payments for child support," was how Williams put it.
On cross-examination today under questioning from defense lawyer Jack McMahon, Williams admitted that the worker's compensation settlement supposedly came through 10 years earlier.
McMahon asked if Williams had any paperwork to prove he had ever received the worker's compensation payment.
"I don't," Williams responded.
McMahon implied that Williams was a less than honorable father when he asked the witness if he was "hiding it [the money] from his children."
Williams insisted he was hiding the money from family court.
McMahon was clearly unimpressed.
"I have no other questions for this guy," the defense lawyer said before he sat down.
The next prosecution witness to testify against the defendants was another drug dealer named C. Thomas. Or was it C. Whitaker.
He's named "C.T." in the indictment. During his time on the stand, the witness revealed that his last name was an alias he gave police when he was first arrested at 13. His real name is Mr. Whitaker, the witness said. But throughout this case everyone has called him Mr. Thomas.
Whatever. It's a government witness were talking about.
Thomas's story was that on March 23, 2010, he heard a "boom, boom, boom" at the door and when he opened it, he saw some cops in uniform. They searched the house and found a bag of marijuana in a dresser drawer in a second-story bedroom.
"They pulled me out of the house," said Thomas, a scruffy, bearded drug dealer with a deep voice. "We had a little tussle," he said about his altercation with the defendants.
It was a case of mistaken identity, Thomas said. The cops were really after his cousin, who lived in the house that Thomas owned on the 1600 block of Annin Street in South Philadelphia. When the cops figured out who he really was, the witness testified, they took the cuffs off him and slapped the cuffs on his cousin and took him away.
The incident involving Thomas is described as "Episode #14" in the indictment, which charges that former Officers Linwood Norman and Jeffrey Walker allegedly stole $20,000 found in a second-floor bedroom. According to the indictment, Norman and Walker falsely reported that only $1,000 in cash had been seized from the Annin Street property.
On the witness stand, Thomas said the cops had left his place "ram-shacked." Usually, the drug dealers that testify for the prosecution say the cops "ransacked" their homes.
Thomas also told a different story about how much money was allegedly stolen.
"I had money in a sandwich bag," Thomas testified. "Around $10,000 to $15,000."
"I just make a sale that day," he said.
Why didn't you file a complaint with the police so you could try to get your money back, the prosecutor wanted to know.
"Cause it's drug money," Thomas said.
On cross-examination, Thomas told defense lawyer Jack McMahon that he didn't live at the Annin Street property, he just kept drugs there and let his cousin live there rent-free.
"I go over to my house and chill some times," Thomas explained.
The day the cops showed up, Thomas testified, he was chilling with his cousin. He also invited a young woman over and, "I was chilling with her too," the witness told the jury.
The next witness was Victor Rosario, a former West Philadelphia marijuana dealer with a British accent and a conman's gift of gab. On Feb. 3, 2010, Rosario told the jury, he was arrested by former Officers Thomas Liciardello and Brian Reynolds.
That day, Rosario told the jury, he was driving around in a rented Honda Accord with ten pounds of marijuana in his trunk. He was on his way to deliver the dope to a family friend when he was pulled over in a Lowe's parking lot and arrested by "two big black police officers," the witness said. He identified the two officers as Linwood Norman and Jeffrey Walker.
Asked by the prosecutor what his reaction was to being pulled over by the cops, Rosario replied, "Oh Shit."
At first, Rosario said, the cops told him they pulled him over because he fit the description of a robbery suspect. But after they searched his car and found the marijuana, the witness testified, the cops told him he was in big trouble.
On the witness stand, Rosario claimed that Liciardello told him, "We know freedom is right here if I can make a call."
What they wanted him to do, the witness claimed, was to give up his suppliers. But Rosario told the jury he didn't cooperate. He also told a new story on the witness stand, claiming that Liciardello told him it was "dry out there," and that if he needed weed, the cop supposedly could supply it.
The officers took $5,000 out of his pocket, the witness claimed. Liciardello took his keys, Rosario testified, and gave them to Officer Reynolds.
Officer Reynolds, Rosario said, drove over to his house and ransacked it. He also allegedly stole a Rolex watch worth $5,700 and jewelry from Rosario's house on North St. Bernard St.
And that's not all that was missing.
Rosario said that he stored a collection of Tiffany jewelry at his house that he bought for his girlfriend at the "romantic time of the year."
The cops only reported finding $1,858 in cash. They also found 12 pounds of marijuana and a gun registered to Rosario's girlfriend.
Rosario said he later saw an identical watch on the arm of Officer Brian Reynolds during a court hearing at the Criminal Justice Center. The officer pointed to the watch and mouthed "thank you" the witness claimed.
On cross-examination, Rosario told Jack McMahon about his usual daily routine on the day he got busted.
"I remember everything," the witness assured the defense lawyer.
Rosario told McMahon that on his daily rounds he always looked in on his elderly grandmother, and did favors for her like taking out the trash. In fact, the day he got busted he was on his way to grandma's house.
"I'm well-respected," Rosario assured McMahon. He also told the defense lawyer that he was "very romantic."
"Victor Rosario buys gifts for his lady," Rosario said. But he admitted that he didn't have the receipt for the $5,700 watch.
"I lost it," Rosario claimed.
Why didn't he file a complaint about his missing jewelry, McMahon asked.
"I just left it to karma," Rosario said.
In his opening statement to the jury, McMahon, on behalf of former Officer Reynolds, told the jury that his client bought his Rolex watch on Oct. 6, 2007 with $4,000 borrowed from the Philadelphia Police and Fire Credit Union.
In court today, McMahon showed Rosario pictures of Reynolds in family photos with his children. In the photos, Reynolds was wearing a Rolex watch.
"I didn't say he took it," Rosario responded. "I said it was the same kind of watch."
After a lunch break, Rosario complained to Judge Robreno about the hostile vibes he was supposedly getting from one defendant, as well as one of the defendants' relatives who was a spectator in the courtroom.
"I don't have any acrimony toward anybody in the room," Rosario assured the judge.
Rosario accused former Officer John Speiser of smiling and winking at him. Rosario also accused a relative in the courtroom, Tommy Liciardello's stepfather, of threatening the former drug dealer in an elevator.
"You have something you want to say to me," Rosario said Liciardello's stepfather allegedly told him. Rosario told the judge he replied, "Yes, it's a beautiful day."
"I just feel very threatened," Rosario told the judge. The witness claimed in the elevator that Liciardello's step-father made a threatening gesture toward him, by running his hand under his chin.
Rosario claimed the cops raided his home without a search warrant. While he was being held prisoner, Rosario claimed, the cops called and wanted his security code for the alarm system.
McMahon, however, went over the timing of the events on the night Rosario was arrested and said that court and police records showed Rosario was mistaken.
Rosario was arrested at 5:25 p.m., police records show. At 7:45 p.m., an assistant district attorney approved a search warrant of Rosario's house. By 8 p.m., a bail commissioner had signed off on the search of Rosario's house, which was executed at 9 p.m. by the cops.
Rosario, however, remained unconvinced. He also had some more stories to tell.
Three years after his arrest, Rosario said, he found out that Liciardello had been arrested. To celebrate, Rosario called Liciardello on the cop's cell phone.
The same cell phone number, Rosario said, that Liciardello had given him in hopes that Rosario would give up his suppliers.
"I was gonna pick at him [Liciardello] because he was in trouble," Rosario claimed. But he decided against it, and hung up before Liciardello could answer the phone, the witness told the jury.
On cross-examination, defense lawyer Jimmy Binns inquired about Rosario's breakup with his girlfriend, whose name was on the lease for the apartment that Rosario claimed had been ransacked by the cops. Rosario told the jury he had broken up with his girlfriend because she was cheating on him.
You were in jail for three months after your arrest, Binns reminded Rosario. During that time when your girlfriend was cheating on you, she could have gone in the apartment, brought along anybody she wanted, and taken back her jewelry.
She didn't take her jewelry, Rosario insisted.
Binns went over the last time Rosario saw his Rolex watch. Counting the three months he had been in jail, Binns figured, 13 months had elapsed between the time Rosario claimed he last wore his watch and the time Rosario saw Officer Reynolds wearing a similar watch in court.
You girlfriend could have taken all her jewelry and your watch and traded it in for a gun she bought for you in a straw purchase, Binns suggested.
But the prosecutor objected and the judge sustained the objection.
The last drug dealer to testify was Leonard Sammons.
Sammons told the jury that on Aug. 18, 2010, he sold 200 Percocets to a woman who was a regular customer. He always made his sales in the same place, the witness told the jury, the parking lot of the Hess Gas Station at 34th and Grays Ferry.
"She gets the product, she leaves," the drug dealer said.
A few days later, the same customer wanted more pills.
Sammons told the jury he was on his way to the Hess Gas Station again, carrying $1,100. He was drinking a half pint of Gray Goose, as apparently is his custom. That's when he was arrested by the defendants.
"They told me to get the fuck out of my car," the witness said. Licardello, the witness said, put him in handcuffs.
He was looking at 15-to-20 years in jail, Salmons said. That's when Sammons claimed that Licardello told him, "I better give him somebody."
Sammons testified that he told Licardello, "I don't have nobody to give you."
When he saw a mug shot of Officer Walker in dreadlocks, that's the guy, the witness said.
Samnons claimed that Officer Walker had sworn out a false statement that claimed he had bought 182 pills from Salmons for $600.
"I never sold to him in my life," Sanmons said of Officer Walker, the prosecution's star witness against his former brother officers.
The prosecution's sorry case is expected to wind up Thursday when the trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 15A. Then the defense is expected to parade a bunch of superior officers to the witness stand to testify that all the drug busts the jury has heard about were legitimate jobs. And that the defendants were standup guys.
These are superior officers who supposedly were never interviewed by the feds.
It should be an entertaining story that's expected to start on Friday.