Pubdate: Sat, 02 May 2015
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Copyright: 2015 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Jeremy Roebuck
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


He Said Drug Squad Stayed Within the Law.

Michael Spicer, one of six Philadelphia police narcotics officers 
charged in a federal corruption case, testified in his defense 
Friday. And with his career and his freedom in question, he sought to 
set a few things straight.

He never saw anyone on his squad plant drugs, he said. Nobody stole 
anything, either. And most important, Spicer stressed, nobody ever 
tried to throw anyone off a balcony.

"I don't think I even went out on that balcony. That never happened," 
he said, rejecting an allegation that in 2010 he threatened to toss a 
drug suspect from his Old City apartment's third-floor terrace. 
"That's a complete lie."

That last statement became a frequent refrain as defense lawyer Jack 
McMahon asked the 19-year police veteran to respond to each 
accusation made against him and his colleagues during their fiveweek trial.

"Absolutely not," he replied when asked whether he and the others 
stole money during one 2008 raid.

"That's completely not true," Spicer said about another suspect's 
claim that the squad planted evidence at his home.

Throughout his five hours of testimony, the 47- year-old, known as 
"Spice" to his squad mates, came across as affable and relaxed - 
talking with his hands and cracking a few jokes. He came to police 
work, he said with a smile, after a shortlived career as a milkman in 
South Philadelphia.

But Spicer has not yet faced cross-examination - expected to come 
Monday. And, as he told jurors, he is no stranger to the witness stand.

He made more than 1,000 arrests and played a role in hundreds of 
search warrants during his five years as a member of the Narcotics 
Field Unit, he said. Testifying came with the job.

And lawyers for Spicer and his codefendants - Officers Thomas 
Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, and John 
Speiser - hope he can make a strong impression on jurors now weighing 
their fates.

They have denied prosecutors' allegations that they patrolled the 
streets as a law unto themselves, ignoring due process, roughing up 
suspects, pocketing seized money, and falsifying police paperwork to 
cover up their misdeeds.

Spicer is expected to be the last defense witness and the only 
indicted officer to testify before the trial concludes next week.

His testimony Friday offered jurors a window into the methods 
employed by the squad and the dangers they faced while trying to take 
down the city's drug suppliers.

"They were long days," he said. "A lot of times, we worked 14-, 15-, 
20-hour days."

Cooperation from lower-level drug dealers was key as the officers 
worked to move up the supply chain. Every squad member had his own 
method of persuasion, he said, but any deals struck were done with 
the approval of supervisors, and most drug dealers were more than 
eager to assist.

"He loved it," said Spicer of one government witness who has since 
accused the squad of threatening him. "He would call Tommy all the 
time. He liked being a CI [confidential informant]. He liked the action."

Recalling other incidents that have become part of the case against 
him, Spicer's memories remained sharp several years on.

He remembered the nuts and bolts organized in baby food jars in one 
suspect's "meticulous" garage. He told jurors about another man's 
eagerness to give officers any information they wanted, as long as he 
could stay out of jail to use the tickets he had to a 2008 World Series game.

As for the 2010 drug raid that prompted the most disturbing 
allegations against him, Spicer was unwavering.

Last month, Old City marijuana dealer Jason Kennedy testified that 
Spicer threw him to the ground, knocking loose a tooth, and 
threatened to hit him with a sledgehammer while executing a search 
warrant on his Front Street apartment.

Later, Kennedy said, the officer took him out to a balcony and asked 
him whether he preferred to go over "head first or feet first."

Spicer maintained that aside from a slight scuffle with Kennedy when 
he entered the apartment, which he described as "like a little 
wrestling match," the two had next to no contact.

"Mr. Kennedy lied about several things," he said. "I don't think I 
said those words to him. We had very minimal conversation."

Spicer's testimony is expected to continue when the trial resumes 
Monday. Closing arguments are likely to begin Tuesday.
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