PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Friday rested their monthlong case against six former Philadelphia police officers who are accused of robbing dealers of large sums of drugs and cash, beating them to get information, planting evidence and lying in court to win unjust convictions.
The defense began its case Friday by questioning FBI agents about the evolving story told by star government witness Jeffrey Walker, a disgraced member of the elite undercover unit.
Prosecutors built their case on Walker's testimony and that of a string of admitted or suspected drug dealers.
Walker admitted that he routinely stole money and valuables during illegal drug raids, which he said was standard procedure in the elite undercover squad run by lead defendant Thomas Liciardello. The unit scored major seizures that, according to Walker, kept police brass happy and internal affairs complaints at bay.
"As far as the bosses and supervisors were concerned, (the large seizures) made them look good. It was nothing but a dog and pony show," Walker testified earlier this month.
More than 160 drug convictions have been overturned since Walker pleaded guilty and the others were named in a 26-count indictment. Scores of civil-rights lawsuits are pending over the allegedly tainted arrests and convictions.
Walker has been in custody since he fell for an FBI sting — planting drug evidence and stealing $15,000 from an informant — in May 2013. He hopes to avoid a life sentence with his testimony.
The defense has tried to paint him as a thieving outcast in the police unit. They question why police supervisors involved in the raids haven't been charged along with Liciardello and co-defendants Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, Michael Spicer, Linwood Norman and John Speiser.
Defense lawyers, attacking Walker's credibility, noted Friday the changing nature of his statements. He first told the FBI after his arrest that he had never before planted drugs, but he told jurors he committed "thousands" of crimes during his 24-year career. He also once told the FBI that a supervisor had shared in a $50,000 drug-raid bounty, before later withdrawing the claim.