By Natalie Pompilio
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Closing statements began on Tuesday in the corruption trial of six Philadelphia police officers, with the prosecution condemning the accused as abusing their power and the defense disparaging the credibility of witnesses in the case.
The six veteran narcotics officers, on trial in federal court, are accused of stealing money from drug suspects, using excessive force and lying on search warrants and in court testimony.
Prosecutors built their case before U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno largely on the testimony of more than a dozen drug dealers and a former police officer who admitted to committing what he said were thousands of crimes while on duty.
In her closing statement to the jury, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen McCartney said the accused officers had abused their power and felt they were above the law.
“They abused that power … in the most egregious of ways by threatening people, abusing people, robbing people and then lying about what they had done,” she said.
“These defendants behaved as if they believed that because they wore a badge, their crimes would never see the light of day,” she said.
Defense attorney Jack McMahon attacked the credibility of each prosecution witness, describing them as “trash” and “bugs” that had been found by turning over rocks.
He called former police officer Jeffrey Walker, who pleaded guilty and testified against his one-time colleagues, amoral and despicable.
Prosecutors say the six members of the elite Narcotics Field Unit committed their crimes between 2006 and 2012.
When they were arrested last summer, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey called the allegations “one of the worst cases of police corruption I have ever seen.”
More than a hundred drug cases in which the defendants were involved have since been thrown out.
The officers face a range of charges including conspiracy, kidnapping, extortion and assault.
The jury is expected to start deliberations on Thursday.
The prosecution witnesses said the six threatened and beat drug suspects, planted evidence, skimmed cash and lied on official police reports.
They said the officers forced their victims to comply by dangling them over balconies, holding them against their will in hotel rooms for days or threatening them with the loss of their children or their homes.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Walsh)