|Lt. Robert Otto [left]|
On the witness stand, Lt. Robert Otto was asked to give his professional assessment of former Officer Thomas Liciardello.
"He is one of the finest, most dedicated police officers," said the white-haired veteran of 26 years. Of the thousands of officers he has known during his career, Lt. Otto said, Liciardello ranks in the top 5.
"He is the best police investigator I ever met," Otto told the jury.
In court today, Otto also praised the work of the other five defendants in the rogue cops case.
"They were very effective, very efficient, very honest," the lieutenant told the jury about the former members of the Narcotics Field Unit. "They were the best at what they did; there's no doubt about that."
He looked around the courtroom where the six former officers were sitting at several defense tables, accused by the federal government of conspiring to beat and rob drug dealers.
"And this here makes no sense to me," the lieutenant said.
In the spectator seats after the lieutenant got through testifying, a few female relatives of the defendants were crying.
Before Lt. Otto took the stand today, Sgt. Robert Friel, a former member of the narcotics field unit, told the jury that former Officer Jeffrey Walker loathed Tommy Liciardello.
"He said, 'I hate that mother fucker' numerous times," Friel told the jury about Walker.
Friel said he told Walker that Liciardello gets under people's skins. Friel said he cautioned Walker not to jeopardize his career over the feud with his fellow officer.
But Walker wouldn't listen, Friel told the jury.
Friel said he heard Walker say, "One day I'll get him. He's gonna get hit."
Friel said he talked to Liciardello about the feud as well and concluded, "Tommy didn't like him," meaning Walker, either.
When Lt. Otto took the stand, he dismissed drug dealers' tales about the defendants conducting police raids while allegedly dressed in black and wearing ski masks.
"That's never been done," Otto told the jury. "That's nonsense."
Defense lawyer Jack McMahon asked the lieutenant to explain to the jury his philosophy behind his frequent "integrity checks" upon fellow officers.
Otto said his philosophy boiled down to this. If a cop was gonna go bad and dishonor his profession, "You don't give a fuck about me so I don't give a fuck about you."
"If you did something wrong, I'm gonna turn you in," Lt. Otto said he repeatedly told his men.
He was a "hands-on lieutenant," Otto said. When the cops busted marijuana dealer Jason Kennedy, Otto told the jury how he tried to tackle a fleeing suspect.
"If it was 25 years ago,"Otto said, "I would have caught him."
McMahon asked Otto what he thought of Officer Jeffrey Walker.
"Officer Walker was a satisfactory employee at best," Otto told the jury. "He had problems."
Walker, Otto said, even accused him of misconduct. Otto told the jury how Walker once accused the lieutenant of taking $30,000 of a drug dealer's money.
Otto said he was incredulous and asked Walker if he realized what he was saying.
"That's what my source told me," Otto quoted Walker as saying.
Otto said he told Walker that regarding the incident in question, he found much more money than $30,000. Otto said he told Walker he had turned in $72,000 on a property receipt.
But Walker continued to insist that Otto had done something wrong.
Otto said he brought Walker in to see his captain, and asked Walker to repeat his accusations. Then, the lieutenant told the jury, he offered to go on restricted duty while internal affairs conducted an investigation.
After an objection from the prosecutor, the judge allowed Otto to say that nothing ever came of the alleged incident, and that Otto never had to go on restricted duty.
Regarding the feud between Walker Liciardello, Lt. Otto said he tried unsuccessfully to mediate.
"I thought it was a shame," Otto told the jury. The two officers "had been friends for years."
"I've often had conversations with both officers," Otto said. Walker "just simply detested Officer Liciardello," Otto said.
Court resumes tomorrow at 9 a.m. with the cross-examination of Lt. Otto.