Feds: Indicted narc cops should stay in jail

Posted: August 04, 2014

CALLING EACH of the six former narcotics cops "a risk of flight and a continuing danger to the community," federal prosecutors said yesterday that they want the men kept behind bars pending their trials.

The cops, who have been suspended from the police force with the intent to dismiss, face a detention hearing Monday before a U.S. magistrate judge.

The six - Thomas Liciardello, 38; Brian Reynolds, 43; Michael Spicer, 46; Perry Betts, 46; Linwood Norman, 46; and John Speiser, 42 - are currently being housed in the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center.

They were arrested Wednesday, indicted on charges of racketeering conspiracy and related offenses in the alleged robberies of suspected drug dealers and others from 2006 to 2012, when they worked in the Narcotics Field Unit.

In motions for pretrial detention filed yesterday, prosecutors alleged that the rogue cops committed gunpoint robberies of suspected drug dealers, and in some cases of nondrug dealers, physically abused victims during the course of searches, and covered up the robberies and physical abuse by filing false police reports.

Liciardello also "kidnapped victims to extort information," according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek.

While the feds have not named a ringleader in the alleged conspiracy, Liciardello has the most witnesses against him and has been described to the Daily News by alleged victims - one whose case is part of the indictment - as a person in charge.

"Eighteen separate victims have accused [Liciardello] of the crimes alleged in the indictment," prosecutors asserted in the filings yesterday.

In comparison, 11 victims each have accused Reynolds and Spicer of crimes alleged in the indictment, nine have accused Betts, four have accused Norman, and three have accused Speiser.

"Perhaps the most egregious example" of the allegations against Liciardello is that "he intentionally pistol-whipped a victim, who had submitted to the police and was on his knees with his hands on his head, so that [Liciardello] could score points in a bizarre contest with other [Narcotics Field Unit] officers to physically abuse victims.

"The end result of the pistol-whipping was that the victim had to be taken to Frankford Hospital and bears a scar on his forehead to this day resulting from [Liciardello's] actions."

The feds also pointed out a "most egregious example" in a motion to keep Norman's detained.

"Perhaps the most egregious example of [Norman's] actions involved his stealing three kilograms of cocaine from a drug dealer at gunpoint and then distributing those drugs to others for cash."

In another case, on Nov. 26, 2007, Norman allegedly hoisted a man, identified by the initials M.C., "off his feet and leaned him over a balcony railing" from the 18th floor of M.C.'s apartment on City Avenue in Philadelphia, according to the filings.

Norman dangled the man from the balcony at Liciardello's behest, the feds said, as part of a shakedown to get M.C. to reveal information about the location of money, drugs and drug suppliers.

"The evidence in this case is strong," prosecutors said.

Besides the alleged victims, the government also has a cooperating witness - Jeffrey Walker, a former narcotics cop who had been part of the group and pleaded guilty in an attempted-robbery case after being arrested in an FBI sting.

Given that five of the six indicted cops face a maximum sentence of life in prison, and the sixth, Speiser, faces a maximum sentence of 40 years, the government contends that "there are no conditions or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure" their presence at trial if they were released from custody.

Defense attorneys are expected to argue Monday for their clients to be released on bail. Norman's attorney, Nicholas Pinto, confirmed yesterday that he will.

Speiser's attorney, Michael J. Diamondstein, has said his client "really should be released." He said Speiser has been vilified by the alleged victims, whom Diamondstein called "felons, villains and thieves."


On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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