Trial to begin in RICO-conspiracy case of 6 ex-narcs
Jury selection is expected to begin tomorrow in the federal trial of Thomas Liciardello and 5 co-defendants.
A JURY WILL soon hear the federal racketeering trial of six former narcotics cops accused of conspiring to steal money and drugs from alleged drug dealers while on duty, at times using violence.
Jury selection is expected to begin tomorrow.
Opening statements are scheduled for March 30 before U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno.
The six defendants - alleged ringleader Thomas Liciardello, 38; Brian Reynolds, 43; Michael Spicer, 47; Perry Betts, 47; Linwood Norman, 47; and John Speiser, 42 - worked in the police Narcotics Field Unit.
They all are charged with RICO conspiracy. Certain defendants are also charged with deprivation of civil rights, robbery, extortion, carrying a firearm during a crime of violence and falsification of records. And one defendant, Norman, faces a charge of possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine.
All have pleaded not guilty.
Some of the alleged crimes were committed with then-Narcotics Field Unit cop Jeffrey Walker, who was arrested in May 2013 in an FBI sting while he was trying to steal $15,000 from a drug dealer's home. Walker pleaded guilty last year to attempted robbery and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.
Walker, 46, has been cooperating with the government and is expected to testify against his former colleagues.
The July 29 indictment lists 22 "episodes" of alleged wrongdoing by the cops from Feb. 28, 2006, to Nov. 7, 2012. In recent days, the government has filed motions to withdraw three of those episodes and related counts.
One of the alleged victims who will no longer be called to testify is Warren Layre, 62, of Conshohocken, who was arrested Feb. 25 in Montgomery County on drug and conspiracy charges.
Another episode the feds asked to withdraw from the indictment involved an alleged victim by the initials of J.M. Judge Robreno last Monday granted the government's motion to withdraw those two episodes in the indictment.
On Friday, the government filed another motion to withdraw prosecution on another episode, one on March 7, 2010, involving an alleged victim with initials of C.C., and on falsification-of-records counts related to C.C. and J.M. Tomorrow, Robreno will have a pretrial hearing on this motion.
A U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman on Friday said prosecutors would not comment on their reasons for wanting to withdraw prosecution on those counts.
Liciardello's attorney, Jeffrey Miller, contended that the evidence in C.C.'s case "is evaporating." With regard to Layre, Miller said the feds "want to remove a bacteria from their case. Layre has recently been arrested. For them to put [this] witness on the stand and vouch for his credibility . . . would hurt their case."
Federal prosecutors, in their trial memorandum, said they estimate the trial to take about two months. They included a list of 81 potential prosecution witnesses, which includes attorneys who represented the alleged victims after their arrests on drug charges.
The lawyers "will be called to testify that the victims gave them statements, soon after their arrests, consistent with their expected trial testimony, to rebut any claim of recent fabrication," Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek wrote in the trial memo.
Defense attorneys for the six ex-cops are expected to attack the credibility of the alleged victims and Walker's during the trial.
Five defendants were granted bail and are under house arrest.
Liciardello was denied bail and has been housed in the Special Housing Unit of the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center, where he has been in solitary confinement for about 23 hours a day.
Walker is also housed in the SHU at the federal prison here, but in a separate section from Liciardello, according to a source.