After winning back their freedom and their jobs, five former members of an elite Philadelphia narcotics squad who were acquitted this year on federal corruption charges have sued the district attorney, the mayor, and the city’s police commissioner for defamation, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The three city leaders unfairly maligned the officers and made accusations that led to their firings and arrests, Officers Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, and John Speiser alleged in federal court. By deciding in 2012 that his office would no longer accept any cases stemming from their squad’s investigations, District Attorney Seth Williams “started a gigantic, destructive avalanche of severe and permanent wrongs, damages and injustices” that continues to affect the officers today, wrote their attorney, Christopher Mannix.
In a racketeering conspiracy trial that concluded in May, federal prosecutors alleged Liciardello and his squad mates routinely beat drug suspects, pocketed money, and fabricated police reports to cover up their crimes. Government witnesses, many of them with long criminal records, described being dangled over balconies, threatened with the seizure of their homes, held in hotel rooms for days, or beaten as the officers kept score on who could inflict the most debilitating injuries. A jury found that testimony unconvincing and acquitted the officers. U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger has said he stands by his office’s work on the case. Mannix described that federal case as “literally laughable and disgraceful.” The lawyer did not include the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the FBI among the defendants in the defamation suit, though he hinted in an interview that he may be considering a case against them.