Former Philadelphia cop Malik Snell used his badge and a tricked-out Dodge Intrepid that appeared to be a police undercover car to target drug dealers and rob them, a federal prosecutor said yesterday.
In his opening statement during Snell's third trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Henson walked over to the defense table, pointed at the defendant and told the jury: "Malik Snell, the policeman, is the robber he is charged with being."
But defense attorney John I. McMahon Jr., said that Snell - an 11-year veteran who was assigned to the 18th police district - was an "innocent" victim of "vile and despicable" allegations leveled by "corrupt and polluted sources."
A number of convicted drug dealers who have plea agreements with the government are expected to testify against Snell. But Henson argued that jurors should weigh their credibility based on the evidence and the facts, adding that their cooperation agreements require them to "tell the truth" on the witness stand.
Prosecutors allege that Snell was recruited by his brother-in-law, Tyree Aimes, to drive Aimes and a friend to Pottstown on Dec. 17, 2007, so they could break into and rob an apartment that Aimes believed was used by a drug dealer as a stash for crack and drug proceeds.
When the robbery was botched, Snell and Aimes fled in Snell's white Dodge Durango and led authorities on a high-speed chase that ended in Exeter Township, Berks County, where Snell crashed the Durango and he and Aimes were later apprehended after they fled on foot.
McMahon said that Snell had no idea that his brother-in-law was attempting to rob the apartment and then "panicked" after questioning Aimes, and sped away.
Three days earlier, on Dec. 14, 2007, Snell, in full police uniform, pulled over a South Philadelphia drug kingpin, Ricardo McKendrick Jr., and robbed him of $40,000, prosecutors allege.
Henson said Snell was driving the tricked-out Dodge Intrepid at the time of the alleged robbery.
McMahon said Snell did not rob McKendrick and that an eyewitness told investigators the robber drove a Chevy Impala or Malibu.
The defense attorney said Snell had "no motive to rob anybody," adding that Snell and his wife, a Philadelphia corrections officer, had a combined income of $100,000.
This marks the third time that federal prosecutors are trying to win a conviction against Snell, 36, who is expected to testify in his own defense.
Last October, a jury deadlocked on charges that Snell participated in the attempted Pottstown robbery. Two others charged in the case - including Aimes - pleaded guilty.
In March, in an attempt to bolster their case, prosecutors filed additional charges that Snell robbed McKendrick at gunpoint and later threatened to kill McKendrick and another drug dealer during a January 2009 jailhouse conversation after learning that they were cooperating with the feds.