More convictions tied to corrupt officer are tossed

Jeffrey Walker was on narcotics squad.
Jeffrey Walker was on narcotics squad.
Posted: March 02, 2014

PHILADELPHIA A Common Pleas Court judge overturned 17 more convictions Friday tied to former Philadelphia narcotics officer Jeffrey Walker, the latest consequence in a widening corruption scandal involving the department's antidrug squad.

So far, Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper has reversed about 85 cases in which Walker played a role.

Friday's batch marked the first dismissals since the disgraced former officer pleaded guilty to federal robbery and firearms charges this week. Nine other cases were flagged for potential reversal at an April hearing.

"We are still in the reviewing process," said Robin Godfrey, chief of post-conviction reviews at the District Attorney's Office. She added that the reversals did not suggest innocence, but that questions surrounding Walker's crimes had made them all too difficult for prosecutors to defend in court.

By Friday, the process had become routine.

Woods-Skipper called each case in rapid-fire succession, while Godfrey and public defender Bradley S. Bridge voiced staccato opinions on whether it should be overturned. The two agreed on nearly all cases before them.

When questions arose about another case on her docket, Woods-Skipper asked, "Is this one a Walker?"

That his name has now become shorthand for tainted cases marks a significant fall for the 24-year police veteran, who spent the last 14 years of his career on the narcotics squad. He was fired last year after his arrest in an FBI sting.

Walker, 45, pleaded guilty to one count each of attempted robbery and using a gun during a violent crime Monday, stemming from a scheme he hatched to plant cocaine on a South Philadelphia drug dealer and later rob the man's house.

Walker's lawyer, Thomas Fitzpatrick, said his client had agreed to cooperate with an ongoing federal grand jury probe of other narcotics squad officers.

Federal prosecutors have declined to discuss their investigation - and have yet to confirm its existence.

But Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey tipped their hand last month by acknowledging at least four officers had been named as targets.

All of the men - a list that includes Officers Thomas Liciardello, Perry Betts, Brian Reynolds, and Michael Spicer - have been pulled from street duty, Ramsey said.

Four others who worked closely with the officers under suspicion, including Walker's former partner Linwood Norman, have also been reassigned.

Since December 2012, Philadelphia courts have dismissed hundreds of drug arrests tied to the officers and faced more than 40 lawsuits alleging they framed suspects with false testimony and evidence.


jroebuck@phillynews.com

215-925-2649

@jeremyrroebuck

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