Trial Starts for Cops in Federal Case

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The federal trial for the six former Philadelphia police officers accused of robbing and extorting drug dealers is set to begin this week, with jury selection expected to begin on Tuesday.

The officers — Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, John Speiser and Linwood Norman — were part of the narcotics unit in the Philadelphia Police Department

“The enterprise (1) conducted traffic stops of vehicles driven or occupied by persons suspected of being engaged in criminal activity and robbed such persons of money, drugs, and property; (2) entered premises used or occupied by persons suspected of being engaged in criminal activity and stole money and property; and (3) shared proceeds illegally obtained from individuals and premises,” federal prosecutors said, summing up the case in a pretrial memorandum filed March 6. Read more »

More Sting Charges Expected

Williams Kane

The “double-dog dare” continues to backfire on Kathleen Kane.

Nearly a year after the attorney general invited Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams — one of her loudest critics — to try to prosecute the “abandoned sting” of corrupt Philly lawmakers she had decided not to prosecute, despite having recordings of those lawmakers accepting gifts that were never reported to the state. Williams gleefully accepted the offer and not long after started cranking out the prosecutions.

He’ll add three more names to that list today at a news conference where he’ll announce charges against “two current and one former” state representatives. He did not name them, but the Inquirer and Daily News identified the three as State Reps. Louise Williams Bishop and Michelle Brownlee and former State Rep. Harold James, all Democrats from Philly. Read more »

Report: Feds to Charge N.J. Senator with Corruption

Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Menendez

Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Menendez

Attorney General Eric Holder has signed off on charges against New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, CNN reports. The report, which cited sources briefed on the case, says federal prosecutors allege Menendez used his office to “push the business interests of a Democratic donor and friend in exchange for gifts.”

Menendez, a Democrat who served in the House from 1989 to 2006, was appointed to the post in January of 2006 after New Jersey Governor-elect Jon Corzine vacated the seat. He won re-election twice: Over Thomas Kean in 2006 (53-44 percent) and Joseph Kyrillos in 2012 (59-39 percent).

But a grand jury has been investigating Menendez since at least 2013, when news broke that the feds were interested in his dealings with Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen. Read more »

Another Cosby Accuser Comes Forward

cosby video

Another Bill Cosby accuser has decided to make her story public.

“Patricia” — her last name wasn’t disclosed — came forward in a Buzzfeed article today. She was reportedly one of the 13 “Jane Doe” witnesses lined up to testify against Cosby when former Temple University employee Andrea Constand filed suit against the entertainer a decade ago. But that suit was settled before it went to trial, and Patricia had not told her story publicly until today.

Patricia told Buzzfeed she was invited in 1978 to Cosby’s house in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, when she was 22 years old. She expected to dine with Cosby and his wife, but only Cosby was there.

Buzzfeed reports: Read more »

Where to Send Your Kid to College If He Does Drugs

Photo | DEA

Ecstasy or MDMA/Molly. Photo | DEA

So let’s say your son is a good kid, a nice kid, smart, nailed his SATs, but he does have this troublesome … habit. He likes to get high.

Nothing serious — you don’t think — but you’ve definitely found rolling papers in the pockets of his jeans, not to mention the bong in the back of his bedroom closet, behind his old ice-hockey gear.

Hey, no big deal; you used to get high, and probably will again if — when — it gets legalized. But considering Junior’s fondness for the Disco Biscuits, you wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done some molly, and didn’t four students at Wesleyan just get arrested for that? You’d hate to see your kid’s whole future derailed over some silly party drug. And he’s going to be applying to college this fall, so … Read more »

FBI Renews Focus on “Cold” Imbo-Petrone Case

The FBI today observed the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Richard Petrone Jr. and Danielle Imbo; the pair were last seen on Feb. 19th, 2005 on South Street.

A $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the resolution of the mystery.

AP reports on today’s FBI press conference:
Read more »

10 Years On, FBI Task Force Takes Up Imbo-Petrone Case

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A new FBI “cold case” task force is looking at the case of Richard Petrone Jr. and Danielle Imbo; the pair vanished during a date on South Street in 2005.

“The FBI is planning a press conference for February 19, with new information on the reward being offered and how the public can help,” CBS Philly reports. Feb. 19 is the anniversary date of their disappearance.

In April, Philly Mag’s Steve Volk wrote about the case, describing the last moments Petrone and Imbo were seen together:

At around 11:45 p.m., they got up to leave. Richard said he’d drive Danielle home to Mount Laurel before returning to his place in South Philly. And so, on a night when the temperature was about 27 degrees and the crowd at 4th and South was probably a little thinner than usual, Danielle and Richard walked out of Abilene’s toward Richard’s truck.

And vanished. Nothing has ever been found — not a bolt, not a screw, not a purse or a hair, no clue at all — to explain what happened that night more than nine years ago.

Read more »

Police Brutality Charges Show the System Is Trying, Not That It’s Working

Commissioner Charles Ramsey, middle, looks on as D.A. Seth Williams announces charges against two Philadelphia Police officers.

Commissioner Charles Ramsey, middle, looks on as D.A. Seth Williams announces charges against two Philadelphia Police officers.

Seth Williams was almost right.

The district attorney entered last Thursday’s press conference — the one announcing brutality charges against two Philadelphia police officers — seemingly intent on one thing: Proving that this city is no Ferguson, that abusive officers will be held accountable, and that no additional layers of accountability are needed here.

“Hopefully,” he said, “this case will show Philadelphians that our system here works.”

Again, almost.

In the interest of fairness, let’s discuss what did, indeed, go right in the case: Once confronted with video evidence  supporting allegations that two officers needlessly, brutally beat Najee Rivera in a traffic stop, police and prosecutors didn’t try to sweep the matter under the rug. They took the matter to a grand jury where — despite all the lurid tales we’ve heard in recent months of police-friendly prosecutors putting their thumbs on the scale against police accountability — a recommendation for charges emerged.

That’s great: Give the system proper inputs, and you stand a better chance of getting proper outcomes.

Here’s the problem: Left to its own devices, the system likely wouldn’t have received the proper inputs. The system almost certainly would’ve put Najee Rivera behind bars for “resisting arrest” — or, best-case scenario, free on probation but with a huge black mark on his record — while the officers who beat him would still be on the streets right now.

Read more »

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