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."
On May 23, 2013, Walker got caught red-handed in an FBI sting operation planting cocaine on a drug dealer and helping himself to $15,000 of the dealer's money while undercover cameras were rolling. After he was arrested, Walker turned on six of his fellow former narcs, telling the feds that they used to routinely beat and rob drug dealers.
McMahon was the lead defense attorney in the campaign to discredit the prosecution's star witness. He certainly brought a lot of enthusiasm to the job The only problem for the defense is that Walker is such a forlorn sap who previously was the butt of jokes from the defendants that the jury might start feeling sorry for the guy.
Walker, of course, may be a thief, a liar and a sap, but the only thing that matters is whether the jury believes him.
McMahon started his demo job by going back to the beginning of Walker's career. The big guy who used to wear dreadlocks got started as a cop in 1989. Five years later, Walker admitted on the stand, while working as an officer in the 16th District, he stole money for the first time.
McMahon pointed out that Walker was a thief and a liar before he worked narcotics with the defendants, and he was a thief and a liar two years after he left the narcotics squad and got busted in the FBI sting.
Walker's defense was that he was a thief and liar before, during and after his time on the narcotics squad.
McMahon got Walker to admit that he's planted drugs on people so many times that he's lost count.
"Yes, and I did it with them too," Walker said pointing to the defendants.
That's not what I asked you, McMahon yelled at the witness.
McMahon also got Walker to admit that time after time he came into court and lied on the witness stand about the evidence he had planted on people.
"You would lie to a jury in a jury trial?" McMahon asked.
"Yes," Walker said.
And those lies resulted in innocent people going to jail, McMahon asked.
"At times yes," Walker admitted.
And what did you do with the money you stole from the drug dealers, the defense lawyer wanted to know. Did you spend it on "wine, women and song?"
"That's correct," Walker said. At another point in his testimony, Walker admitted, "The money I stole that was my play money."
McMahon went through Walker's statement to the FBI after he got busted in the sting operation.
"I knew when I went into that [drug dealer's] house, I crossed the line," Walker had told the feds.
McMahon read that quote out loud to the jury. And then he shouted at the witness, "You crossed it 25 years ago," the first time you stole money, the defense lawyer said. You lied to the FBI.
"It wasn't a con," Walker responded.
"You crossed that line a long, long, long time ago," McMahon said for emphasis.
"Yes, I did," Walker reluctantly agreed.
McMahon drew on Walker's direct testimony on Tuesday, where he told the prosecutor he stole from drug dealers because "I wanted money."
Here, Walker drew a line. He sang to the feds because he wanted to "save myself," Walker insisted.
"I'm willing to save myself from myself," he said, by finally telling the truth. "They were part of the truth," Walker said pointing to the defendants. In telling the truth, Walker said, he was trying "to save my soul."
"I was forced to see the truth in myself," he said.
McMahon, however, pointed out that with all the crimes Walker has confessed to, all the times he planted drugs on people and robbed drug dealers, he's not been charged for any of it.
"You've gotten a pass for all these crimes," McMahon told the witness.
Walker agreed, but said the cooperation agreement he signed with the government stipulated that he had to tell the truth this time on the witness stand.
"If I lie, I will be charged," Walker said. And if the feds throw the book at him for all the crimes he's committed, he could be in jail for life.
"I could never walk out of there," Walker told the jury.
McMahon brought up Walker's personal life, which includes a couple of failed marriages, depression, and a drinking problem.
Because of his personal problems, Walker admitted he was showing up drunk for work, and falling asleep on the job, including when he was on some surveillance operations.
Walker also had a weight problem that he solved by undergoing gastric bypass surgery. His fellow narcs, Walker testified, responded by making fun of him.
"They were making jokes about my life," Walker said of the defendants. "Only one person was supportive of me and that was [Linwood] Norman," who like Walker, is an African-American.
After Norman left the narcotics squad, "I was by myself," Walker said. "They forced me to work alone," he said of the defendants.
A low point was the day when Walker couldn't remember what he did with his service revolver.
"I misplaced my gun," he said. "My gun was in the car; I found it under a seat."
Walker testified about how he reacted to being ostracized by his fellow officers.
"I would do anything to get back in good graces with them," he said. That included lying to cover for his fellow officers.
On top of screwing up on the job and being ridiculed by his fellow officers, Walker testified, his boss, Sgt. Joe McCloskey, was mean to him.
"Every mistake I made he made it bigger than it was," Walker complained about his boss. "He was riding me."
The sergeant knew he had a drinking problem, Walker said. He knew Walker showed up drunk on the job and was carrying a gun. He should have gotten me some help, Walker complained. Instead, "He did nothing," Walker said about Sgt. McCloskey.
At one point, Walker said, his girlfriend urged him to seek counseling. Walker walked into one treatment facility but ended up splitting. His fellow officers were sent to his home. But Walker denied McMahon's suggestion that he had barricaded himself in the house.
"I was going through a lot of problems," Walker said. " I made a lot of mistakes."
McMahon asked about the narcs' method of putting a drug dealer "on ice."
Walker explained how that process applied to Robert Kushner, a white drug dealer they caught on Ridge Avenue driving his maroon Hummer. In the back of the Hummer Kushner had stashed a bag of money containing $30,000 and five pounds of marijuana.
"We put him on ice so he could think about what he was doing," Walker explained.
Kushner went to the Fifth District. Meanwhile, Officer Thomas Liciardello, who took Kushner's keys, then drove the Hummer with Walker in it over to Kushner's apartment on City Line Avenue. There, they ransacked the place and left with a safe with $80,000 inside.
It was Walker who carried the safe down 18 flights of stairs because Liciardello knew there were security cameras in the elevator, Walker told the jury.
"Tommy said take the safe," Walker testified. "I picked it up and carried it out. It was heavy."
In response to McMahon's questions, Walker explained to the jury how he dragged Kushner out of his car and thoroughly intimidated him.
"We scared him to death," Walker said. "I towered over him. I was screaming at him. He had no choice. You scare someone half to death they're gonna give something up."
McMahon took Walker to task for exaggerating stories about the narcs' exploits. The defense lawyer pointed out on one statement to the FBI, Walker had claimed that fellow narcotics officer Linwood Norman had hung a handcuffed drug dealer upside down by his feet over a balcony.
"I say a lot of things," Walker responded.
"I know you say a lot of things," McMahon shot back. "On that I agree with you."
Walker testified that he routinely didn't count the money he stole; a contention that McMahon seemed incredulous at.
"If it's a lot of money," Walker insisted, "I'm kind of lazy. I don't count it."
During his cross-examination, McMahon was accused by the prosecutors of frequently cutting off Walker's answers, talking over the witness and repeatedly asking the same questions.
Several times today, Judge Eduardo C. Robreno agreed, admonishing McMahon for yelling at the witness. The judge also repeatedly upheld the prosecution's objections to McMahon's cross examination, prompting quick apologies of questionable sincerity from the defense lawyer.
"Keep your voice down," the judge told McMahon. "We're not deaf."
The judge got angry about spectators snickering over McMahon's sarcastic remarks to Walker. During a break, the court clerk warned spectators that anyone seen laughing or making comments would be evicted from the courtroom.