By Ralph Cipriano
They may not have their jobs back yet or their paychecks.
But the six defendants in the so-called rogue cops case are getting a parade down Broad Street.
So says James J. Binns, now in his tenth year as president and CEO of the Hero Thrill Show. It's an annual event that raises money for college scholarships to benefit the sons and daughters of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
On Saturday Oct. 10, former Officers Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser will be grand marshals of the 61st annual Hero Thrill Show, Binns said. The parade will begin at 11 a.m. at City Hall. The six former narcotics cops and their families will ride in six white Bentley convertibles in a "Heroes Parade" down Broad Street.
The parade ends at the Wells Fargo Center, where the thrill show will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Last year's event attracted 50,000 people. This year, Binns hopes to triple that number.
Binns was the defense lawyer for Michael Spicer, the only one of the defendants to take the stand. After a seven-week trial, the six former members of the Narcotics Field Unit were found not guilty on all 47 charges contained in a 26-count federal RICO indictment.
"These heroes have been vilified in the press and it's time that they were recognized as the heroes they are, Binns said. Asked if he expects any blowback over elevating a bunch of guys denounced by the police commissioner, the mayor and the U.S. Attorney, Binns responded, "I don't see how any reasonable fair-minded individual could have the slightest doubt about their innocence if you were there and heard the testimony."
Police Commissioner Ramsey might not be there at the parade to cheer on his former narcotics officers. Ramsey, who fired the six officers after they were indicted last year, has said they'll have to go to arbitration to get their jobs back.
The former cops are still defendants in some 80 civil rights lawsuits filed against the city. In what amounted to a holiday for drug dealers, more than 400 arrests by the defendants were thrown out of court. But Binns doesn't seem too worried about any negative fallout from cheering on the former narcs.
In an email today to 150 motorcycle cops in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware that he rides with at charity events, Binns talked about the ordeal the six former narcotics officers have been through:
"They persevered through an 8-year investigation, 5:30 a.m. arrests at gunpoint with AR-15 rifles pointed at their heads, incredible humiliation of their wives and children INSIDE THEIR HOMES [they all worked 2 blocks away from the Federal Building and didn't wear weapons], 10 days of pre-bail incarceration in solitary confinement [8 months in the case of Officer Liciardello, who was denied bail], 8 months of house arrest with ankle bracelets and 7 weeks of trial."
"They, like you, are Heroes who form the Thin Blue Line," Binns wrote the motorcycle cops. "They, like you, are whom Our Lord spoke about at the Sermon on the Mount where he discussed the Seventh of the Eight Beatitudes upon which he built His Church. He told the assembled multitudes: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.' Be safe out there! Jimmy Binns."
In his email to the motorcycle cops, Binns included an email from Lt. Robert Otto, a supervisor of the Narcotics Field Unit who was a witness during the trial. Otto sent the email to Binns and five other defense lawyers in the case.
"I know that Joe [Sgt. Joseph McCloskey] and I were not on trial and in jeopardy of losing our freedom for crimes we did not commit," Otto wrote, "but we anguished with these men and their families for a very long time."
"While I know you guys are the best at what you do and you all worked tirelessly to ensure these innocent men were set free, I also believe that divine intervention guided you all in the form of the Blessed Mother and God's will."
"I cannot and will not ever forget what you have done for these men and their families," Otto wrote. "As I know they are, so am I forever indebted to you. I am still very emotional over this . . . Their families also deserve much thanks and credit for being so strong throughout this ordeal."
"You are all my HEROES," Otto wrote to the six defense lawyers.
"Your friend, Bob Otto."
For more details about the Hero Thrill Show check out herothrillshow.org.