Trial Starts Today for Accused Cops

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After a week of preliminaries, trial is expected to get under way today for six Philadelphia narcotics officers accused of robbing and shaking down the drug dealers they were supposed to be putting behind bars.

Defense attorneys for the officers — Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, Perry Betts, John Speiser and Michael Spicer — are expected to attack the credibility of federal prosecutors’ witnesses, many of whom are convicted or accused drug dealers. More than 160 drug cases involving the officers have been thrown of criminal court. Read more »

WATCH: Protest Over Tate-Brown Shooting Turns Violent at Community Meeting

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Thursday night’s town hall on policing at Lawncrest Recreation Center was scheduled weeks before D.A. Seth Williams announced that he would not bring charges in the killing of Brandon Tate-Brown. But that announcement today assured that emotions would be running high, and just as soon as the meeting opened with the introduction of Commissioner Charles Ramsey, protest broke out. Things escalated from there. The meeting eventually resumed; numerous protesters were reportedly arrested, none requiring medical attention. Read more »

A Lesson for Seth Williams in Kathleen Kane’s Abandoned Sting

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Let’s give Seth Williams a round of applause.

I’m not being facetious here. Williams’ decision to take Kathleen Kane’s “double-dog dare” last year and pursue charges against Philly Democrats caught on tape accepting cash and gifts has been a triumph on several counts: Politically, he’s come across as a stalwart prosecutor and made Kane look feckless by comparison. His decision has also been a small-but needed-victory over the everyday corruption most of us assume pervades this city’s politics.

But the experience offers a lesson Williams almost certainly doesn’t want to learn.  Read more »

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 »

Michael Nutter Wants 16 Times as Many Police Body Cameras Next Year

Photo Credit: Matt Rourke | AP

Photo Credit: Matt Rourke | AP

For the past few months, a police district in North Philadelphia has equipped about 30 cops with body cameras as part of a pilot program. If Mayor Michael Nutter gets his way, police around the city will be provided with an additional 450 body cameras in the coming year.

Nutter has set aside an extra $500,000 in his proposed 2015-16 budget to purchase, store and install the cameras.

Read more »

Feds Postpone Release of Philly Police Report

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. AP | Matt Rourke

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Photo Credit: AP | Matt Rourke

The U.S. Department of Justice was planning to release a long-awaited review Friday of the Philadelphia Police Department’s use of force. Officials did not explain the delay, but it came while the police department was reeling from the death of Officer Robert Wilson in a North Philly shooting on Thursday.

Ramsey asked for the examination following a spike in shootings by police.

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Officials Praise Fallen Philly Officer

We have some more details this morning about the death of Officer Robert Wilson, the Philadelphia police officer shot and killed Thursday while responding to a robbery at a North Philadelphia GameStop.

NBC 10:

Wilson, who was in full uniform, along with his partner, went inside the GameStop at the Hope Plaza Shopping Center on 2101 West Lehigh Avenue around 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Suddenly, two armed men came inside and announced a robbery.

Wilson immediately confronted the pair, leading to a shootout. The suspects, who were on both sides of the officer, shot at him several times at close range as Wilson returned fire, officials said.

“Even though he was being struck multiple times, he continued to fire until the fatal [[shot]] was fired,” Ramsey said.

Read more »

Officer Killed in North Philly Shooting

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UPDATE, 8:15 p.m.: Mayor Nutter, Commissioner Ramsey, and D.A. Seth Williams finished a press conference at 13th and Ontario streets a short while ago (video from Fox29 below). Officer Robert Wilson III, an eight-year veteran of the force working out of the 22nd District, died at 6:25 p.m. from injuries sustained after exchanging gunfire at close range with two men attempting to rob a GameStop in North Philadelphia. Officer Damian Stephenson, Wilson’s partner, and other officers responding to the shooting were able to apprehend the two suspects, who have yet to be named.

Office Wilson is survived by two children, ages nine and one.

Governor Tom Wolf issued the following statement:

“My deepest condolences are with Officer Robert Wilson’s family tonight and his colleagues at the Philadelphia Police Department, especially the officers of the 22nd District. This senseless act is devastating and a stark reminder of the danger faced everyday by our brave men and women in uniform. Across Pennsylvania, members of law enforcement and our first responders put their lives on the line to protect our families and our communities. We can never forget their selfless service and sacrifice.”

UPDATE, 6:23 p.m.: The Inquirer is reporting the officer, identified as Robert Wilson, has died.

[Original 5:56 p.m.] Philadelphia Police are confirming that an officer was shot in an incident just before 5 p.m. at the GameStop at 2101 West Lehigh Avenue. Read more »

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