3 of 6 indicted ex-narc cops are ordered released on bail

Posted: August 06, 2014

AS A U.S. magistrate yesterday granted bail to one of the six former narcotics cops indicted by the feds last week, family members of the cop - Linwood Norman - stood up and exclaimed, "Yeah, Yeah!" in the packed federal courtroom.

Magistrate Timothy Rice then granted bail to two other cops - Brian Reynolds and Perry Betts - accused of stealing from suspected drug dealers and others.

The judge ordered the men placed on electronically monitored house arrest. Their bail will be secured by their homes or by family members' homes.

Rice ruled that the three men posed no danger to the community. There were no allegations that any of the three had threatened any alleged victims in the indictment after the alleged crimes against the victims occurred.

But Rice ordered one of the six cops to remain custody: alleged ringleader Thomas Liciardello.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek - who had wanted all the indicted cops to remain in custody pending trial - told Rice that Liciardello had continued to threaten a victim and the man's wife after Liciardello stole $12,000 from the victim and kept him in a hotel for several days against his will.

Rice ruled that "Liciardello's case is different." When he ordered Liciardello kept behind bars, Liciardello's wife, who is a Philly police officer, and their daughter broke down in tears as they sat in the courtroom gallery.

Rice's decisions on the four cops came after a different magistrate had ordered another indicted cop - Michael Spicer - to remain in custody.

U.S. Magistrate Richard Lloret, who first took the bench yesterday, disclosed that he had worked in the U.S. Attorney's Office for many years, but said he had no involvement in the investigation of the narcotics cops. He asked defense lawyers if they wanted another magistrate to preside over their clients' bail hearings.

The first defense lawyer to face Lloret - Nicholas Pinto, representing Norman - asked for his client's bail hearing to be heard before another magistrate.

Then attorney Jimmy Binns, who represents Spicer, agreed to have Lloret preside. After Lloret expressed a "serious concern" that Spicer could be a "danger to the community" and ordered Spicer held, lawyers for the other indicted cops told Lloret they wanted a different magistrate to hear their cases. That's when Rice was brought in.

The sixth cop, John Speiser, is expected to have his bail hearing today.

Defense lawyers yesterday raised similar arguments. Binns said the feds' indictment was "a lot of sizzle, but there's no steak."

Binns also said police supervisors and officers from other law-enforcement agencies were at the scenes of some of the episodes listed in the indictment, where the feds alleged wrongdoing by the indicted cops. He said he would call these supervisors and other officers as witnesses to show that Spicer is "a nonguilty hero police officer."

Pinto called Norman a "gentle giant" and said 234 residents who live near Norman agree. Jack McMahon, Reynolds' lawyer, called ex-cop Jeffrey Walker - a key cooperating witness for the government in this case - a "corrupt, polluted, despicable person."

Gregory Pagano, Betts' lawyer, said the alleged victims, many with criminal records, are not credible witnesses and are motivated by revenge in speaking out against the cops.

The five former narcotics cops appeared in court in forest-green or khaki prison jumpsuits, their hands cuffed behind them. They frowned or showed neutral faces. A couple of them smiled to relatives.

Jeffrey M. Miller, representing Liciardello, said afterward that he plans to file a petition for reconsideration before Rice. If that doesn't get his client bail, he then plans to appeal Rice's decision to a U.S. District judge.

Binns is expected to appeal his client's case.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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