On Facebook, Philadelphia Police Officer Sean O'Malley has described the federal corruption trial of six of his drug squad colleagues as a "kangaroo court." He can't wait, he wrote, to see his brothers in blue set free.

And as he took the stand as a defense witness Tuesday, he aimed to deflate the most damning allegations against them.

The $13,800 prosecutors said the indicted officers stole from a West Philadelphia home? O'Malley said he was the one who seized the money. The meth peddler in the Northeast who accused the drug squad of framing him? That guy confessed, O'Malley said.

The Overbrook drug dealer who accused officers of threatening to throw him off an 18th-floor balcony? "That did not happen," he said.

O'Malley, a 10-year veteran of the Narcotics Field Unit, was among the eight officers and police supervisors - some in their sharpest dress blues - called to defend Officers Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, and John Speiser as their trial entered its fifth week.

Each had participated in a drug bust or arrest that federal prosecutors have flagged as suspicious. And each contradicted the version of those incidents described by the narcotics squad's accusers.

Together, their testimony seemed designed to leave jurors with one question: Whom do you believe, the criminals making the accusations or the police officers who endangered their lives to put drug dealers behind bars?

As his own testimony began, Lt. Mike Mitchell, a former drug squad supervisor, detailed for jurors the time he was shot in an unrelated narcotics investigation.

O'Malley explained why he could not attend a 2009 court date for one of the drug squad's accusers. He had his own brush with mortality the day before.

"I was dragged for a block, run over, thrown into a parked car, and broke several bones," he said. "I was out for a very long time."

Of Liciardello, O'Malley said: "Tommy is probably the best narcotics officer I've ever worked with. He rubs people the wrong way. He's a bit abrasive, but that's not against the law."

Since March, jurors have heard from 17 drug suspects who alleged that the indicted officers roughed them up, violated their rights, and pocketed seized property and money that should have been documented on official police reports. In some cases, they said, Liciardello and his codefendants fabricated evidence by planting drugs and lying about it in court.

Theodore Carobine testified this month that officers burst into his house in 2009 and stole gun equipment and cash he had saved to pay his daughter's college tuition. They also planted methamphetamine in his bedroom, he said, leading to his arrest in a case that was later thrown out.

But Lt. Thomas Wixted, the supervisor who oversaw that raid, told jurors a vastly different story Tuesday. Carobine, he said, caved within moments of officers' showing up to his house.

"Mr. Carobine put his head down," Wixted recalled. "He said, 'I f-d up. You guys got me. I'm selling meth to put my daughter through nursing school.' "

Michael Cascioli, the marijuana dealer who described his 2007 brush with a balcony plunge, said officers threatened him to get him to give up his supplier.

Mitchell, who was there, said he never saw that happen.

And Lt. Charles Jackson was resolute when pressed to recall details from his involvement with heroin dealer Rodolfo Javier Blanco.

Blanco accused drug squad members of planting drugs and an AK-47 in his apartment, stealing $12,000 he earned from selling a van, and holding him hostage in a hotel room for four days while threatening his family.

Jackson said he witnessed the heroin seizure from Blanco's windowsill and saw Blanco's van parked outside on the day of the raid.

"Do I remember every individual detail? No," he said. "But what I do remember is the van outside, the money in the bedroom, the AK-47 in the bedroom, and the drugs in the windowsill."

Jackson, Mitchell, and Wixted all testified that they were not questioned by FBI agents until this year, well after Liciardello and his colleagues were indicted.

Prosecutors have explained that they waited to interview many of the officers who testified Tuesday because they were not sure at the time who would end up as a target of their investigation.

They have also suggested that some in the Police Department closed ranks to protect their indicted colleagues.

On Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek questioned whether what they remembered of the incidents in question had been shaped by official police reports - documents that prosecutors say the drug squad members falsified to cover up their crimes.

But when asked why he had agreed to testify, O'Malley offered a simple answer: "I don't like seeing innocent people going to jail."

"Neither do I, sir," Wzorek replied, alluding to cases like Carobine's. "Neither do I."

The trial is set to resume Wednesday with testimony from Sgt. Joseph McCloskey, the direct supervisor of the indicted squad members.


215-854-2608 @jeremyrroebuck