Civil suits for acquitted narcotics officers begin moving forward

Civil suits for acquitted narcotics officers begin moving forward
Jennifer Kerrigan

They were found not guilty. Now come thelawsuits.

The six narcotics officers acquitted last month in a police corruption trial face dozens of lawsuits filed by criminal defendants who claim their civil rights were violated.

Those suits had largely been put on hold because of the ongoing criminal trial against them. But with that case in the rearview mirror, there are glimmers that the lawsuits are moving forward.

Thomas Liciardello, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, Michael Spicer, John Speiser and Brian Reynolds were found not guilty in May of a raft of charges filed by federal prosecutors alleging that the men robbed drug dealers and planted evidence. All were members of the city’s elite Narcotics Field Unit. Many are trying to get their jobs back.

Nearly 200 plaintiffs have138 civil suits in federal court that name some of the six narcotics officers or Jeffrey Walker, a former colleague who pleaded guilty to burglarizing a drug dealer’s house after he was caught in an FBI sting. Walker was the government’s star witness during the six-week trial.

Lawyers for the city and the people who say their rights were violated met in Judge Paul Diamond’s chambers Tuesday to discuss how to handle the cases.

Lawyers involved in the case expect a scheduling order that will describe how the cases will move forward in the next couple of days.

The city is looking for outside lawyers to represent the former police officers, said Craig Straw, Chief Deputy City Solicitor of the city law department’s civil rights unit.

Asked how he thought the cases would fare given the acquittal in criminal court, the lead plaintiff’s attorney in the cases noted that prosecutors need prove their cases beyond a reasonable doubt, while plaintiff’s lawyers face a lower burden of proof.