The six former Philadelphia police officers accused of corruption were found not guilty of all charges in a case that shocked the city.
Cheers could be heard from the courtroom as the jury announced it’s verdict. Five of the defendant’s walked out of courtroom 15A in the federal courthouse to backslaps and hugs.
Asked his reaction after the verdict, Michael Spicer said “It’s too much to even put on paper.”
Lead defendant Thomas Liciardello, who was held in custody for ten months, exited the courthouse about one hour later after being processed by federal marshals. The waiting crowd chanted “Tommy! Tommy!”
“It’s wonderful,” Liciardello said. “I’m going to get on with my life.”
Family members walked out of the courtroom with tears of joy in their eyes to a pack of reporters.
“Anyone want to ask me what we’re gonna do?” said Sharon Betts, wife of Perry Betts. “We’re going to Disney World. I always wanted to say that!”
The former officers were accused of robbery, racketeering, civil rights violations and falsifying records. Prosecutors alleged that Liciardello,Betts, Linwood Norman, Brian Reynolds, John Speiser and Michael Spicer beat suspects, stole money and drugs from drug dealers and falsified reports in order to cover up their own wrongdoings.
Nineteen witnesses said the officers stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds between 2006 and 2012.
But the government hung its case on the testimony of former officer Jeffrey Walker, who was caught robbing a drug dealer in an FBI sting. That dealer turned out to be an FBI agent. Walker testified against his former colleagues to gain a lighter sentence.
“It was hard to take his word because of all the lying he did before,” said Tim Hummel, 54, who served as an alternate juror. Hummel did not participate in deliberations, but given the verdict, it seems his colleagues felt the same.
But Hummel also felt the government too often focused on small potatoes. In one episode, officers were accused of using a drug dealer’s cash to pay for pizza.
“These guys had a tough job, and the prosecutors were nitpicking over paperwork,” Hummel said.
Lawyers for the defendants said prosecutors and FBI agents conducted a sloppy investigation.
“The case was a travesty,” McMahon said. “It upsets me that they could bring this case against these good men on these charges.”
Jeff Miller, Liciardello’s lawyer said the government over-charged the men and conducted a sloppy investigation.
“They used the testimony of people who were in fact liars and disreputable,” said Liciardello’s lawyer, Jeffrey Miller.
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.
Spicer, who testified in his own defense, said taking the stand was easy, because all he had to do was tell the truth.
“I didn’t have to be like Jeff Walker and come up with 43 stories,” Spicer said.
Lawyers for the officers say they plan to work to get the men’s job back. They were fired after they were indicted, with Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey saying the case was one of the most serious instances of police corruption he’d ever seen.
McMahon said Ramsey “owes these guys and apology when he says to these men that their badges should be burned and it’s the word case he’s ever scene when he didn’t know all the facts.”
“Lastly, I want to say to Jeff Walker, ‘Have a nice life,” McMahon said.