Cops, supporters, and family react to verdict

Civil suits for acquitted narcotics officers begin moving forward
Jennifer Kerrigan

Six former Philadelphia police officers accused of using brutal tactics to rob drug dealers of their cash and drugs were acquitted of all charges on Thursday.

Nineteen witnesses said Thomas Liciardello, Michael Spicer, Brian Reynolds, Linwood Norman, John Speiser and Perry Betts stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds between 2006 and 2012.

Here are some of the reactions from their friends, colleagues and supporters to Thursday’s verdict.

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.

“I want to say to Jeff Walker, ‘Have a nice life.” — Jack McMahon, lead defense attorney.

“Jeff Walker told interviewers he knew us. Jeff Walker couldn’t tell you what the inside of our house looked like.” — Tracey Duckett, Linwood Norman’s fiance.

“I’d like to ask him to look me in the eye, since he wouldn’t look me in the eye the entire time he was on the stand. He’s an out and out liar who tried to save his own life. And he said that, he was testifying to save his own life. Not to be able to see his daughter again. He didn’t mention anything about his daughter. He was just concerned about himself.” — John Speiser, former defendant.

A dedicated group of supporters, family and friends attended the trial. They expressed joy at the verdict, and talked about the strain it had.

“He’d get upset every time they called his name in court. It would throw his whole day off. When he came home from jail he wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t shave. He kept asking ‘How did this happen.” — Sharon Thomas, Linwood Norman’s pastor.

“My family stuck by me every step of the way, the whole way. They taught me a great lesson.” –Michael Spicer

“Tommy’s been in prison for ten months for nothing.” — Rick Thompson, Liciardello’s stepfather.

“Anyone want to ask me what we’re gonna do? We’re going to Disney World. I always wanted to say that!” — Sharon Betts, wife of Perry Betts.

The observer and the juror. They sat through the entire trial, one because it is his hobby, the other because he was an alternate juror.

“Unbelievable. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. This was the greatest defense I’ve ever seen.” — Fred Tooks, a courtroom observer and community activist.

“These guys have a tough job, and the prosecutors were nitpicking over paperwork.” — Tim Hummel, alternate juror who did not participate in deliberations.

One of the most striking aspects of the defense was the testimony of several decorated cops, many of whom testified in the face of misconduct allegations.

“Justice was served today.” — Sgt. Joe McCloskey, the officers’ direct supervisor

“I’m not gonna comment. Later on, I’m gonna have a lot to say about criminal behavior in the federal prosecutors’ office. It’s disgusting.” — Lt. Robert Otto, McCloskey’s supervisor, who testified on behalf of the accused.

One big question is whether the former officers will get their jobs back, and whether they will receive back pay for ten months between their arrest and the trial.

“The FOP will file an application for them to be reinstated. Normally, some sort of compromise is reached, either back pay and not their jobs, or their jobs and no back pay.” — Jeffrey Miller, attorney for Thomas Liciardello

In their own words:

“They (federal investigators) locked us up. They put a gun to my lady’s head and my kids’ head. They should be the ones in handcuffs. — Linwood Norman

“All I had to do was tell the truth. My friends and brothers made it easy. I didn’t have to be Jeff Walker and come up with 43 stories. — Michael Spicer, who testified on his own behalf.

“It’s wonderful. I’m gonna get on with my life.” — Thomas Liciardello, former defendant, who spent 10 months in custody.