By George Anastasia
Mobster-turned-government-witness Ron Previte, who was a Philadelphia police officer for 12 years, was digging into a lunch of veal parmigiana and penne pasta in a restaurant near Atlantic City this afternoon when he was informed by bigtrial.net that six former narcotics cops had been found not guilty in their federal corruption trial.
"Beautiful," said Previte. "Good for them."
Previte didn't know any of the six defendants, but he knows about police work and despite his checkered past, he still takes pride in the time he spent on the streets wearing a blue uniform.
"I did some bad things but I was still a good cop," Previte said. "People don't understand. These same people who were calling these guys corrupt, badmouthing police, when they were getting slapped around by their husband or when their drug dealing neighbors were shooting at one another, the first person they called was a cop."
Despite playing fast and loose with the rules, Previte said he and the officers he worked with always answered the call.
"It was an us-against-them kind of thing," the 72-year-old former wiseguy said. "The story with police is this: There's total loyalty to one another."
Previte said there was never that kind of loyalty in the mob and that's why he had no qualms about becoming a government witness and helping make cases against mobsters Joey Merlino and George Borgesi.
"They were trying to guzzle me," Previte said of the scams and backstabbing that were part of every day life in the mob. "So in the end, who got guzzled?"
But during his years working with the Police Department, he said, there was never a time when one cop would turn on another.
"It just didn't happen," he said. "Never once did I see it."
Previte followed the trial of the six members of the Narcotics Field Unit in the media. He had no connection to any of the defendants or to the feds who investigated and prosecuted the case. But he was dumbfounded over the government's decision to build charges around admitted drug dealers. And he was more than surprised to see a former member of the unit -- Jeffrey Walker -- turn on his fellow officers.
"Look, it happens in the mob all the time," he said. "I'm just one example. But there isn't that kind of loyalty anymore in the underworld. Those guys I testified against weren't gangsters. They were thugs. They were trying to rob me. I had no loyalty to them."
But when he wore a police uniform, he said, the sense of camaraderie and loyalty was palpable.
"I felt it every day," he said.
And as he spoke the burly, tough-talking former mobster began to tear up.
"It meant a lot to me," he said. "I'm ecstatic that these guys were found not guilty."
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.