This time, the feds got their man.
After deliberating four hours, a jury of seven men and five women found former Philadelphia cop Malik Snell guilty last night of robbing a drug kingpin of $40,000 and participating in and using a handgun in an attempted Pottstown home-invasion robbery in December 2007.
Snell, 36, bowed his head as the jury foreman said "guilty" for each of the four counts. Snell's wife, Tawanda, wailed as the verdicts were announced.
U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick set sentencing for Sept. 9. Snell could face more than 17 years behind bars based on preliminary advisory-sentencing guidelines, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Snell, an 11-year veteran of the 18th Police District in West Philadelphia, was a rogue cop who used his badge and a tricked-out Dodge Intrepid that appeared to be a police undercover vehicle to target drug dealers and rob them of drugs and/or cash. (Snell was fired from the force last year. He has been in federal custody since his arrest in April 2008.)
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Tsao praised the jury's verdict.
"It was a difficult case. In the end, the jury saw the truth that Malik Snell was nothing more than a criminal in a police uniform," Tsao said, echoing comments he made in his closing argument to the jury yesterday morning.
Defense attorney John I. McMahon Jr., who disputed the strength of the government's evidence and attacked the credibility of two key government witnesses - Tyree Aimes and Ricardo McKendrick Jr. - in his closing argument, said: "It's not the verdict I wanted to see."
McMahon said it was difficult to say what jurors "hung their hat on" but that they "obviously rejected" Snell's testimony.
Jurors, who were escorted out of the courthouse by a U.S. marshal, declined to comment to reporters afterward.
McMahon said the defense would prepare for sentencing and "scour" the trial record for any legitimate appeal issues.
Snell's first two trials in connection with the Pottstown case and the robbery of McKendrick ended in hung juries in October 2008 and April 2009. (Snell was acquitted during the second trial of gun and witness-retaliation charges in connection with the McKendrick robbery.)
McKendrick pleaded guilty in December to trafficking in almost 275 kilos of cocaine.
McKendrick, who has yet to be sentenced, testified against Snell last week, telling the jury that Snell was in uniform when he pulled McKendrick over in the late morning of Dec. 14, 2007, handcuffed him, put him in the back seat of the Dodge Intrepid and then robbed his minivan of $40,000 in drug proceeds that were stashed in a diaper bag.
An FBI agent testified Thursday that Snell's cell-phone records put him "definitively" in the area of the robbery - on Dickinson Street near Columbus Boulevard in South Philadelphia - between 12:02 and 12:10 p.m. on Dec. 14, 2007.
Snell, taking the stand in his own defense last Friday, denied he had robbed McKendrick. He said that at the time of the robbery, he was going to a nearby South Philadelphia strip club on Columbus Boulevard, Show & Tel, to see if a friend was dancing there and had driven his white Dodge Magnum that day. (The strip club is less than half a mile from the alleged robbery scene.)
Tsao ridiculed what he called Snell's "exotic dancer defense," telling jurors not to believe anything that flies in the face of common sense. "He's making it up as he goes along," Tsao said of Snell.
Snell also denied having any role in the Pottstown attempted robbery, which ultimately was botched. He said Aimes, his brother-in-law, had asked him to drive Aimes and a friend to Pottstown on the evening of Dec. 17, 2007 so Aimes could pick up some cash from a friend.
Prosecutors said Aimes was actually going to an apartment in Pottstown where he thought a drug dealer had stashed $10,000 in drug money and Aimes had recruited Snell to be the getaway driver in case they got stopped by cops.