The six former Philadelphia police officersaccused of corruption were acquitted of all federal charges in the trial that rocked the city.
Thomas Liciardello, the alleged ringleader of the group, was released from custody after a hearing.
The officers were on trial for robbery, racketeering, civil rights violations and falsifying records. Prosecuters alleged that Thomas Liciardello, Perry Betts, Norman Linwood, Brian Reynolds, John Speiser and Michael Spicer of PPD beat up suspects, stole money and drugs from drug dealers and falsified reports in order to cover up their own wrongdoings.
Nineteen key witnesses said the officers stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds between 2006 and 2012.
“When you have 19 bags of trash, you don’t have better trash,” said attorney Jack McMahon, who represented officer Brian Reynolds, during opening statements in the trial. “You just have a bigger pile of trash.”
The defense had attempted to discount the testimonies of the witnesses by recounting their criminal records. McMahan called them liars motivated by vendettas against good cops.
“We are dealing with people who are not of high character,” McMahon said. “They are deceivers from day one.”
Former narcotics officer Jeffrey Walker got the brunt of the defense’s blame.
Walker, one of the officers’ former colleagues, admitted last year to planting cocaine on a drug dealer in order to steal keys to the man’s house. He later stole $15,000 from the home in a 2013 sting orchestrated by the FBI.
After his arrest, he turned on his fellow officers — leading agents from the FBI’s corruption unit to the 19 key witnesses — in an attempt to get a lighter sentence.
Prosecutors said Liciardello called Walker a “rat” in text messages between the two men after Walker spoke with investigators from the department’s internal affairs unit.
Defense attorneys argued for the officers’ innocence, pointing to the fact that the men were not ensnared in another federal sting designed to catch them stealing from a drug suspect who was really an undercover FBI agent.
“A trap was set by the FBI,” said Jeffrey Miller, lawyer for alleged ringleader Thomas Licardello. “If they were thieves, the money would have disappeared.”
During the ten-week trial, officers seemed relaxed, smiling and laughing during breaks. Only Thomas Liciardello remained somber – he has remained in custody since the men were charged and kept his handcuffs in the courtroom.