Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Inky Editorial Board: Exonerated Narcotics Officers Still Guilty

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Sometimes a journalist can make the mistake of falling in love with a story. Even when it turns out to be not true.

That seems to be what's happened over at The Philadelphia Inquirer, in the case of the six former members of the city's Narcotics Field Unit.

After a seven-week trial a jury in May found the officers not guilty on all 47 charges of a 26-count RICO indictment that alleged conspiracy, deprivation of civil rights, robbery, extortion, carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, falsification of records, and aiding and abetting.

To recap, the jury heard all the evidence in the case and 47 times the jury foreman told the judge that the verdict was not guilty on every charge.

But at the Inquirer, the editorial board keeps on serving up sour grapes about the case, while rehashing disproven allegations and nasty quotes at the heart of a defamation lawsuit filed by the acquitted cops and one of their superior officers. The conduct of the newspaper has left lawyers for the cops scratching their heads and wondering what the hell is going on over at the city's paper of record.

"Reading that editorial, it strikes me as an inane, malevolent attack on the character and reputation of six heroic police officers who have withstood the test of a trial by a jury of their peers and found to be not guilty of anything that they were charged with," said James J. Binns, the defense lawyer for Officer Michael Spicer, one of the defendants.

"I don't understand what the purpose of that editorial would be other than malice," Binns said.

Under the headline, "Laws apply to the police too," and a picture of Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey with an apparent halo around his head, the editorial says:

Escaping conviction wasn't enough for five former Philadelphia narcotics officers who stood trial on corruption charges. Their recent defamation suit appears designed to discourage authorities from going after any cops suspected of illegal behavior.

Certainly the acquittals of the officers accused of shaking down drug dealers sends a strong message to prosecutors whose cases hinge on the testimony of felons. But that shouldn't stop them from pursuing justice, even when the defendants wear blue uniforms.

Six officers were accused of routinely beating and robbing drug suspects as members of the Narcotics Field Unit. But a federal jury acquitted five of them in May despite damning testimony not only by their alleged victims, but also a former member of the unit who made a plea deal.

Who does the fact-checking over at the Inky editorial board? Six cops were accused by the government and the jury acquitted all six defendants, not five. Apparently the jury didn't believe that "damning testimony" from the drug dealers in the case when they unanimously reached 47 not guilty verdicts. The jury also apparently didn't buy the testimony of Jeffrey Walker, the former narc who cut a plea deal to cooperate after he was caught red-handed in an FBI sting.

The Inquirer also doesn't seem to know that the sixth acquitted officer, Linwood Norman, has joined the defamation suit, as reported Friday on this blog.

 Let's get back to that Inky editorial:

The witnesses accused the officers of acting like street thugs, roughing up suspects, ignoring due process, planting evidence, pocketing seized money and lying in police reports. The squad's superiors allegedly asked few questions because the unit was so productive.

In fact, the officers' complaint calls it "the most accomplished and effective narcotics unit in the history of the Philadelphia Police Department." Even if that's true, the distinction would not excuse the criminal behavior the officers were charged with.

Here, the Inquirer seems to be forgetting that the jury found the defendants not guilty of all that "criminal behavior the officers were charged with." But once again, the Inquirer can't get past those charges.

The seriousness of the charges led Mayor Nutter to call the accused "sick scumbags." Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey described it as "one of the worst cases of corruption I have ever heard." District Attorney Seth Williams' 2012 decision to no longer prosecute cases resulting from the accused officers' investigations was followed by dozens of civli rights suits against the officers and the reversal of hundreds of earlier drug convictions. The officers' lawsuit accuses all three officials of defaming them.

"Their editorial begins by explicitly begrudging my clients their rights to get their good names back," said Christopher D. Mannix, the lawyer who filed the defamation suit on behalf of the six acquitted officers and their former supervisor, Lt. Robert Otto.

The Inquirer editorial "implies that my clients should be content that they got their jobs back," Mannix said. "Then, it gratuitously besmirches my clients by repeating Mayor Nutter's venomous slur."

"I guess either the Inquirer was trying to prove our point -- that the officers will never escape the official slurs on their character -- or they were deliberatively propagating it," Mannix said about the newspaper.

Mannix also disagreed with the newspaper on what the "strong message" was for the prosecutors in the case who lost 47-0.

"The 'strong message' is not how difficult it is to rely on criminals for testimony," Mannix said. "It is that the government should properly investigate serious charges."

26 comments:

  1. What do you expect from a dying newspaper that hung its hat on another story and even won a pulitzer, only to find out later that it wasn't the justice that was tainted, but the reporters. This paper takes every opportunity to bash police, fairness means nothing, facts mean nothing, individual reputations mean nothing to them. All done to somehow increase sales by appealing to a segment of the population that believes what they are selling is the truth. I hope these Officers go after this paper for slander, they should not be protected for this article, it is outrageous.

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  2. What do you expect from a paper that has provided slanted coverage of the Billy Doe case, while one Catholic priest has already died in prison due to poor medical treatment; Msgr Lynn is left languishing, and Mr Shero will never get the days back he has wrongly been incarcerated.
    What do you expect from a paper that has done nothing about Seth Williams, his merry band of ADAs, Judges Ceisler, Sarmina, and Hughes and their miscarriages of justice
    Like the previous comment stated - a dying newspaper

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    1. Engelhardt was sick and old, people do not live forever. Lynn and Shero not getting their days back, GOOD. Victims won't get their innocence or childhoods back either.

      Enjoy your pity party !

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  3. A dying newspaper, yes as nobody in his right mind will line up to purchase and keep it alive. Last I checked, nobody is required to keep a local newspaper to spread the news as it can be done by TV stations and the internet.

    It is not the newspaper that is at fault for passing poor judgment on the narcotic cops already acquitted by a grand jury, but the individual editor and reporters who strongly feel that way. Henceforth, it is the owner's responsibility to take action by sacking the editor and reporters who still feel strongly that the PPD is a corruptly run organization, that PPD officers are not entitled to due process in a trial along with Archdiocese priests falsely accused of child abuse.

    Were that done and were new appointees hired with a clear mind to report only the truth and nothing else, the Inky would have a chance to stay in business. Very unlikely this will happen as the poor and downtrodden apparently feel enthused when police officers are accused of stealing from the poor narcotic dealers and when priests are falsely accused of child abuse and put on trial. That is the reality of society in Philadelphia.

    The very same societal misfits among the poor and downtrodden support red light cameras to catch speeders and add to the budgetary burden of safe drivers.

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  4. OK lets add the Philadelphia Inquirer to that lawsuit. Get all you can to repair the damage done by the FBI and US Attorney's Office for bringing this case and costing the tax payers lots of MONEY>

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  5. Ralph,

    Your coverage on this trial was exceptional, but now you seem to be digging for reasons to be upset on behalf of these officers, or the Beasley Firm attorneys that represent them in their civil action. In fact, I think you totally distort the Inky Editorial, and its purpose. The Editorial argues that the prosecution needs to continue weeding out dirty cops and prosecuting them. Why is that something the newspaper should be criticized for saying?

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    1. Beasley doesn't represent the cops in their civil action; Christopher Mannix does. You're off base there. A responsible newspaper would be looking into why the prosecution case was so bad, as well as investigating the conduct of the D.A. in this matter. The FBI and U.S. Atty's office have some explaining to do. But nobody at the Inky or DN is going to be pressing them on any of this because they function as cheerleaders for prosecutors. Can't you see that?

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    2. Anon 12:07 believe what Ralph is saying about the Beasley firm not representing these officers. The puppet would not go against or get involved in any negativity against his puppet masters.

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    3. Slade is that you?

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    4. Can't wait to read the article/your opinion on Perry Betts losing his job once again for having a positive urine sample. Or that that not story worthy??

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    5. @2:15...no. No story. But for white Bentleys and fake grand marshalls he ran to the keyboard.

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  6. The feds just learned how to morph in another direction, it wasn't enough to lose, they have the only rag in town continually convince the public that the jury got it wrong. The cunning defense attorneys must have somehow swayed the jury. Obviously the government can't ever be wrong, it had to be someone else, the defense attorneys or the jury,never the government. Bad, bad jury, how dare you listen to all the evidence, use your common sense and exercise your civic duty to arrive at a not guilty verdict. How dare you go against your government , next time everyone is guilty, lock all Americans away. Why bother going to trial, just plead guilty to something , that is truly the prosecutors objective. See how much safer the country is now since mandatory sentencing fixed all of our problems.

    Raising the stakes for the defendants by having a case held in federal court, that could have been dealt with internally, was the biggest mistake the government made, besides distorting the facts.

    The recent INKY article of the retiring FBI director stating that the department really worked hard on the narcotics officers case, that is was such a blow to them to lose. Well, jury too bad you did not hand the director a big retirement present and send all the men to jail for the rest of their lives, it would have been the highlight of his career. The FBI and the prosecutors have saved the public from pestilence and strife, by rounding up the Narcotics officers and the Traffic Court Judges. Unfortunately , the government does not play fair, convincing the public that these cases belonged in federal court and continually hammering home this point for fear the public might actually start to believe that they did not belong in federal court in the first place, that is what I think is one of the most import aspects of these two cases. Having public officials weigh in on a defendants presumed guilt further deteriorates the chances of a fair trail.
    The attorneys in the narcotics case were wonderful, stating the facts to the public, educating us all on the over criminalization by prosecutors, this is the main reason the feds are printing so many articles in the papers about their justification for bring a case to trial. Pointing out the judges and the INKY are part of the prosecution team needs to be made clear in the public and jurors minds.

    I can only wonder what the country would be like if prosecutors acted fairly to all citizens, turning over all evidence to the defense team, not employing strong arm tactics and not using the media to incriminate the defendant before they get to trial. Leaving families devastated and a swath of destruction in in their paths is but an incidental casualty in the war against citizens. When Americans wake up to the facts, its an us against them mentality. they will realize why the country is in the state its in presently. Reporters covering both sides of a case fairly, not just the governments side, would be a step in the right direction. Newspapers being used by the government to convict a person should be against the ethics of a newspaper and the ethics of a government. Robbing citizens of their dignity is the lowest form of torture practiced by the prosecutors and the media.

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  7. No one should ever have the ability of deprive a citizen of their dignity and love of country. No citizen deserves to have their self worth stripped from them by either their government , a jury, a judge or the media. Realizing the monumental part the media plays in degrading its citizens in print, would go far to restore a semblance of justice for the accused. The world is full of horrifically sad occurrences everyday, be it natural disasters or mindless terrorist attacks, adding to human pain and suffering at the hands of our own government through unnecessary persecution is unforgivable.
    Americans have learned to treat one another with contempt and disgust by following the example of federal prosecutors and the media, shaming is the new game. Our country has been stripped bare , we believe in nothing, no faith in our government, no faith in the judicial system, no faith in the Catholic church and no faith in one other. Its every Americans duty to fight injustice, it touches each and every one of us everyday. We are not safe in movie theaters , churches or schools , lets use our resources to better our country , stop fighting undignified trials and alienating even more Americans.

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  8. Maybe we can get the Washington Post or the New York Times interested in doing some investigative reporting into the censorship at the INKY. No thinking person could over look the overwhelming evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, overreaching and abuse running rampant in our country. Unless of course you read the local publications exclusively , as it was never bought your attention. Hiding evidence, its a crime.

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    1. It's a brotherhood. Don't hold your breath.

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  9. I wonder why there was never any articles about the drug dealers who hit the lottery by having their cases dropped and then went on to file a civil suit. Even those that plead guilty were not happy with having the charges dropped against them. They went and sued. The inky never said a word about the audacity of their actions and the scumbag lawyers who actually took their cases. Although, 6 men who were found not guilty, file a lawsuit and they are shamed. Its absolutely ridiculous.

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  10. The six men are heroes in my eyes. They were shamed, and were guilty by their superiors and the DA's Office as well as the FBI. The FBI thought they wouldn't get the truth from supervisors therefore they never verified drug deals stories with the men's supervisors? Is this for real, is it professional. I have no respect for the FBI and the judicial system. How dare the judge make the comments he made about the officers at Walker's sentencing!!

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  11. New York Times

    Ex-Justice Dept. Officials Argue Against Federal Prosecutors in Supreme Court Brief


    AUG. 3, 2015

    WASHINGTON — An extraordinary brief filed last week in the Supreme Court has put the Justice Department in an awkward spot.

    The brief said federal prosecutors had violated the Constitution by failing to turn over evidence about a key witness.

    “Such an approach,” the brief said, “contributes to a harmful notion that the criminal justice system is a game, and that victory rather than justice is a prosecutor’s goal.”

    The argument itself is not unusual. But the people making the argument are.

    They include some 20 former Justice Department officials, including Michael B. Mukasey, who served as attorney general in the Bush administration. Seth P. Waxman, who was solicitor general in the Clinton administration, represents the former officials.
    Their brief urged the Supreme Court to hear an appeal from George Georgiou, who was convicted in 2010 of securities fraud and related crimes. Mr. Georgiou says his conviction was tainted by violations of Brady v. Maryland, a 1963 Supreme Court decision that required prosecutors to turn over favorable evidence to the defense.

    Michael Mukasey, who served as attorney general in the Bush administration, in 2008. Mr. Mukasey is among the 20 former Justice Department officials to file the brief. Credit Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images).
    Prosecutors had failed to provide Mr. Georgiou’s lawyers with documents that showed that the key witness against him, a business partner turned government informant, had been taking drugs to combat mental health problems. But the prosecutors said they were blameless because the defense lawyers could have located the documents themselves.

    Neal K. Katyal, a former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, represents Mr. Georgiou. He sounded delighted by the support his client was receiving from what he called “the collective brain trust of the last several administrations.”

    “It’s a very rare thing when Michael Mukasey, Greg Craig, Walter Dellinger, Larry Thompson, Jamie Gorelick, Seth Waxman and Peter Keisler agree that a court decision siding with federal prosecutors is wrong,” Mr. Katyal said.

    Mr. Craig was White House counsel in the Obama administration; Mr. Dellinger acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration; Mr. Thompson deputy attorney general in the Bush administration; Ms. Gorelick deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration; and Mr. Keisler acting attorney general in the Bush administration.

    In an interview, Mr. Keisler said the Supreme Court should agree to hear the case, Georgiou v. United States, No. 14-1535, to vindicate a fundamental principle.

    “The essential role of a government prosecutor is to seek justice, not simply or always to win convictions,” he said. “That role requires the prosecutor, in order to help ensure a fair trial, to make broad disclosure to a criminal defendant of the information the government possesses. The decision challenged in this case weakens enforcement of that fundamental requirement.”

    The main witness against Mr. Georgiou was Kevin Waltzer, the former business partner, and Mr. Georgiou’s lawyers had asked the prosecutors for all sorts of information about Mr. Waltzer, including whether he had suffered from mental disabilities, emotional disturbances and the like
    But the prosecutors failed to provide a transcript and a report that would have disclosed that Mr. Waltzer had been diagnosed with anxiety
    Remainder of the article can be found at THE MARSHALL PROJECT AUGUST 4,2015

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  12. No update on Betts?

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    1. Why don't you stop being a troll, the only update is he is fired. There is no story.unless you have more information than was already reported.

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  13. Ralph,

    I wrote the comment above regarding the Beasley firm and the civil action.

    (1) I appreciate that you corrected me. I was wrong with regard to the civil action. For some reason I thought Binns was counsel in the civil action.

    (2) No one is more frustrated with the media acting as cheerleaders for the prosecution (generally) as I am -- I just don't think they're doing so in this instance. I thought the coverage of the trial was fairly balanced. I certainly got the sense from their coverage that Jack was doing an incredible job taking the lead.

    (3) I'd love to see an editorial about how bad the prosecution bungled this case. Logistically, that might be hard to get. In my experience, prosecutors are only willing to talk to the media when they want to act tough or celebrate their victories. Rarely do they admit mistakes in the press. I suppose Jack or Jim or any one of the defense attorneys could provide this story, if the newspapers sought it out.

    (4) Whether they're critical of the prosecution of these officers or not, I don't think it diminishes or changes the message of the Editorial. These 6 officers were not guilty. I have no doubt that other officers are doing unlawful stuff, and I want to see them caught and prosecuted. To me, that was clearly the purpose of the column.

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  14. Ralph , if you're such an accomplished journalist, then maybe you should do your own investigation of these 6 shakedown crumbs! Instead of bashing and and ripping into your fellow peers(journalists), maybe you should strongly consider what they're(journalist) saying! I mean come on Ralph, you're strongly one-sided on this one, and we all know that the witness' they brought to the stand were the WEAKEST, SADDEST, and most irrelevant out of all them who were arrested. The other ones who wouldn't take the stand and cooperate with the fed's are the ones who really could've put these 6 crumbs away for 20+yrs! But they won't cooperate because they're not rats, and also because they're still in the game. The Inquirer is 100% correct on this failed case, and they wouldn't continue to put this out in their papers and risk their reputation if they didn't have SOLID and accurate facts about these 6 scumbags! Binns and his crew didn't do a good job on this case, the Feds ruined this by getting desperate nobody's to take the stand. Binns actually should've retired a long time ago, but now he's "shining" because he got these crumbs aquitted! He's such a sad old man! Ralph you tanked on this story! You need to sharpen up your skills and find out what's really going on at the inquirer! They hit it on the head!

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    1. "The Inquirer is 100% correct on this failed case, and they wouldn't continue to put this out in their papers and risk their reputation if they didn't have SOLID and accurate facts about these 6 scumbags!"

      Are you a comedy writer?

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  15. Actually, you couldn't be more wrong. What the FEDS did not tell everyone is that they did interview a mass of drug dealers who told them that nothing did happen and that the officers arrested them properly after they were involved in the drug trade. What did the FEDS say to these slew of drug dealers who said that the officers treated them properly? The FEDS said to them "well you won't be hearing from us again" The FEDS found 17 people out of thousands of cases who wanted payback for these officers who not only took their lucrative business from them, but also took their assets via forfeiture procedures set by the District Attorney's Office and also took away their freedom. So I pose this question to you since you believe that everything the papers write is correct, Since Anthony Wzorek prosecuted thousands of cases in his career, should I be allowed to personally interview every person he prosecuted and if any of those criminals I interview tell me that they feel that good old Tony improperly prosecuted them or that Tony committed some violation of their civil rights while he investigated them or prosecuted them, can I then take that "ONE SIDED" story to a Grand Jury and have him indicted for crimes without conducting further interviews of persons who were also involved in those prosecutions or assisted with the investigation? Because, out of thousands of cases he prosecuted, I know I will find at least 17 people to say that he violated their rights. This is exactly what happened in this case against the officers. The FBI Agents, the Philadelphia Police Sergeant and the Federal Prosecutor (Anthony Wzorek) never bothered to interview anyone and just simply went to a Grand Jury on the word of 17 drug dealers and Jeff Walker. Whoever you are that wrote the above comment I'm sure you must have more sense than to not ask yourself how this could have all taken place? There is much much more to this story my friend. Just Friday, Rufus Seth Williams threw out or overturned 156 criminal cases, many of which the offender pled guilty to because he/she was guilty. Does this make any sense to you? Rufus is putting your safety and your family's safety at great risk by his corrupt/criminal actions and no one seems to even notice. The officers involved in this case have told the city attorneys that they still stand by all these cases and will testify to each and everyone of them even today. Rufus Williams is going to cripple this city financially before he is done. Don't accept no comment or "my discretion" from him. Make him explain his actions.

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  16. Yes let Rufus explain why/ He is absolutely wrong on this case.

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  17. I grew up around the corner from lil Tommy Liciardello, and I'm friends with a few people he shook down , threatened and robbed. Also, Tom and his crew threatened people they arrested by saying if they didn't give up some people, then they (Tom and crew) would start letting people know that you were cooperating with them, which made a few people completely crumble. They knew how to turn the knife!! They also robbed about $20,000 and Percocet's from a dealer in our neighborhood, threatened to put him away for a long time, esp with his prior's! So what's he to do??? He takes it on the chin ! He knew he was done either way! Then the next week, Tom and the 3 Irish narcs in his crew, took their families to Puerto Rico for a 6 day vacation, compliments of my buddy! Another side note; Tommy had a raging Percocet habit. His family sat him down and told him he's disgracing the family name. Everything I've said is 100% true, and it's sad that a crumb and deadbeat like Tom, basically got away with murder! And also the 5 others too... It's sickening that these pathetic people can sit here and say that they're HERO'S..!!! you're all delusional..!! These scums are the farthest things from hero's..!!!

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