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Former Phila. officer convicted in robberies of drug dealers

Former Philadelphia Police Officer Malik Snell was convicted last night of using his badge and his gun to rob drug dealers.

Former Philadelphia Police Officer Malik Snell was convicted last night of using his badge and his gun to rob drug dealers.

A U.S. District Court jury deliberated for about four hours before announcing that it had reached a decision on all four counts the 12-year police veteran faced.

Snell, who was fired last year, was found guilty of conspiracy, attempted robbery, and a weapons offense in connection with a botched home invasion in Pottstown.

He was also found guilty of taking $40,000 in cash from a South Philadelphia drug kingpin during a bogus police car stop.

Both incidents occurred in December 2007, while Snell was assigned to the 18th District in West Philadelphia.

The rapid jury deliberations were a stark contrast to two earlier trials that ended in hung juries after days of deliberation. This time, the panel of eight men and four women began deliberations late yesterday afternoon, broke for dinner after a few hours, and announced that it had reached a verdict within an hour of resuming discussion.

After the verdict was announced, the 36-year-old defendant, who has been in custody since his indictment in April 2008, put his head into his hands and looked down.

His wife, Twanda, broke down, crying and wailing as the foreman announced a guilty verdict on each of the four counts.

Jurors declined to comment as they left the eighth-floor courtroom.

Judge R. Barclay Surrick set sentencing for Sept. 9. Snell faces a prison sentence of 171/2 years to more than 20 years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo R. Tsao said he was "pleased by the verdict. In the end, the jury saw the truth - Malik Snell is a criminal in a police officer's uniform."

Defense attorney John I. McMahon said he was "disappointed in the verdict."

"I thought the third time would be the charm, but it was not to be. . . . Obviously, they rejected his testimony," McMahon said.

As in his earlier trials, Snell testified in his own defense.

Once again, he said that he was duped into driving his brother-in-law, Tyree Aimes, and an associate to Pottstown on the night of the break-in, and did not know a robbery was planned.

Aimes and the associate have pleaded guilty to attempted robbery charges. Aimes, testifying for the prosecution, said Snell was aware that they planned to rob an apartment where they believed drug proceeds were being stashed.

Snell and Aimes were arrested after a high-speed chase that night after Snell crashed the Dodge Durango he was driving into another car. Police said the Durango reached 130 m.p.h. before the crash.

In explaining the chase, Snell said he panicked after realizing what Aimes had done.

Snell denied any involvement in the robbery of drug kingpin Ricardo McKendrick Jr., which occurred Dec. 14, 2007, two days before the Pottstown heist.

McKendrick, one of the biggest cocaine suppliers in Philadelphia, said he was stopped that day near Dickinson and Water Streets in South Philadelphia by a police officer driving an unmarked black Dodge Intrepid.

He later identified Snell as the officer who handcuffed him and took $40,000 in cash that he had in a diaper bag in the back seat of the SUV he was driving.

The prosecution used a record of cell-phone calls made by Snell that day to place him in the vicinity of the robbery. The jury also saw photos of a black Dodge Intrepid that Snell had access to and that he kept parked on the street where he lived.

Snell, in an explanation he had not offered earlier, said he was in the area where the robbery occurred because he was trying to locate an exotic dancer who worked at Show & Tell, a strip club on Delaware Avenue.

In his summation, Tsao mocked the "exotic dancer defense," arguing that it was patently "false and ridiculous."

McMahon, as at the earlier trials, said the testimony of Aimes and McKendrick was less than credible because each struck plea deals in order to avoid serious prison time.

The case was built around "polluted" testimony from cooperating witnesses who would say whatever they had to to get out from under their own criminal problems, McMahon said.

He said Aimes was looking at 30 years in prison and said Snell was "his way out of jail."

He said McKendrick, arrested with his father in April 2008 in one of the biggest cocaine seizures in city history, hoped to get 10 years rather than life by cooperating.

Police confiscated more than 600 pounds of cocaine valued at more than $30 million and found more than $1 million in cash when the McKendricks were arrested.

In all, the jury heard five days of testimony.

Initially Snell was accused only in the Pottstown home invasion, but the case against him was expanded this year to include the McKendrick robbery.

Last year, a jury was unable to reach a verdict in a case that focused solely on the Pottstown home invasion. A second trial, this year, which included the McKendrick robbery, brought a mixed result.

Snell was found not guilty of a witness-retaliation and a weapons charge in connection with the alleged robbery of McKendrick. But the jury was hung on the other four counts in the case.