MICHAEL CASCIOLI told a federal jury yesterday that he was tackled by plainclothes cops in the hall outside his penthouse City Avenue apartment and later hoisted off the ground from his 19th-floor balcony as he feared for his life.
At first, he didn't know the men were cops. It was the night of Nov. 26, 2007, and Cascioli, who admitted he was a big-time dealer, said he was carrying a bag with marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms and was about to go down a stairwell to see another resident, Robert Kushner, who lived one floor below him at the Executive House on City Avenue.
But before he got into the stairwell, he was surrounded and tackled by several men. After he fell, he heard one man identify himself as police. He said one plainclothes cop, Officer Thomas Liciardello, threw him against a wall and grabbed his keys off him.
The cops cuffed him and began searching his apartment.
Cascioli, 38, testifying at the trial of six ex-narcotics cops accused of robbing suspected drug dealers, said soon after, then-Narcotics Chief Inspector William Blackburn arrived. "He looked a little tipsy," Cascioli testified.
Blackburn wanted the password to Cascioli's computer, and Cascioli said he eventually gave it to him. There was nothing he worried about the cops finding on his computer, and some time later, Blackburn left, he said.
Cascioli said Liciardello and Officer Michael Spicer wanted him to tell them where he kept his money and who his supplier was, but he wouldn't.
At some point, Officer Perry Betts grabbed him by the collar and dragged him into his bedroom, "threw me against the wall" and yelled, "Where's the f---ing money?" then punched a hole into the wall, Cascioli said.
Liciardello, who was "definitely" the leader, and Spicer continued to ask him about his supplier, Cascioli said under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek. He said he finally broke down and agreed to cooperate by giving the name of his New York supplier, and by calling that man to tell him to drive to the Executive House in Philadelphia.
Phone records showed the call was made about 11:25 p.m.
Later, Liciardello and the others went downstairs to wait for the supplier and left Cascioli in his apartment, his hands cuffed, with a woman cop, Cascioli said.
Apparently, when the supplier arrived, he had no drugs on him, and Liciardello was angry, Cascioli said. When Liciardello returned to the apartment with Officers Linwood Norman and Jeffrey Walker, Liciardello saw a PalmPilot Cascioli had and demanded the password for it, Cascioli said.
Cascioli said he wouldn't give it up. He said the PalmPilot had details of where he kept more than $400,000 in cash - at his brother's place in Maryland and at a friend's in Montgomery County.
Liciardello then told Norman and Walker "to do what they had to do to get the password from me," Cascioli said, adding that Norman and Walker - now a cooperating government witness in the case - brought him out to his 19th-floor balcony.
"At this point, they started to lift me a little," he said. "My feet were off the ground."
He said he was afraid. "I thought they were going to drop me" over the railing. Cascioli said he then gave up his password.
Cascioli was arrested on drug charges and later pleaded guilty.
He said he later learned about $8,000 worth of his items, including sunglasses, a Versace sweatsuit and two watches, were taken from his apartment.
In court, Cascioli identified Liciardello and his five co-defendants - Spicer, Betts, Norman, Brian Reynolds and John Speiser - as being in his apartment.
But Speiser's lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, told Cascioli that on that day, Speiser was on vacation.
Wzorek then showed Cascioli a photo of another officer, and Cascioli realized it was that officer who was in his apartment. That cop, like Speiser, was bald.