Former Narcotics Cops Sue Mayor Nutter, Commissioner Ramsey and D.A. Williams

They were acquitted on corruption charges, but say damage can't be undone.

ramsey nutter williams

A group of Philadelphia Police officers accused — and acquitted — of shaking down drug dealers is now suing Mayor Nutter, Commissioner Charles Ramsey and D.A. Seth Williams for defamation.

Perry Betts, Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, John Speiser and Michael Spicer were all exonerated of federal corruption charges earlier this year. (A sixth exonerated defendant in the case, Linwood Norman, is not party to the suit.) They’re joined by their former supervisor, Robert G. Otto.  The suit was reported Monday afternoon by BigTrial.net.

The lawsuit had originally been filed in a state court, then transferred to federal jurisdiction. An amended complaint (see below) was filed late last week. The suit stems from a 2012 letter from Williams to Ramsey, saying he wouldn’t accept drug cases — or warrants for affidavits — that required the testimony of those officers.

“There was no legitimate or reasonable or colorable basis whatsoever for D.A. Williams’ letter; to the contrary, the letter was written in bad faith and recklessly,” attorney Christopher Mannix wrote for the officers.

Mannix said Williams’ request wasn’t based on any dishonesty by the officers, but rather prompted by a series of bureaucratic grievances:

D.A. Williams’ request was motivated by petty or non-pertinent: bureaucratic, administrative and political conflicts (between the D.A.’s Office and the Police Department): personality conflicts (between Plaintiffs and persons in the D.A.’s Office), and resentments (of the Plaintiffs by persons in the D.A’s Office).

Some of the aforesaid conflicts and resentments arose out of the D.A. Office’s desire to receive more credit for narcotics successes and receive a greater share of seized and forfeited drug money.

Some of the aforesaid conflict and resentments arose out of the very blunt, speak-his-mind, get-things-done, personality of Plaintiff Liciardello.

Incredibly, these petty and often-wrongheaded bureaucratic, administrative, “political” and personality conflicts, and the aforesaid resentments, were behind D.A. Williams’ request to the Commissioner that the Plaintiffs be transferred.

Commissioner Ramsey transferred the officers out of the Narcotics Unit following Williams’ letter, Mannix said, and to other active units.

“If Commissioner Ramsey, whose very public persona is as a fierce advocate of the integrity, honesty and ethics of his Department and its officers, believed for a minute there was any basis for D.A. Williams’ letter, he would have taken these putatively untrustworthy officers off the street and confiscated their weapons,” Mannix wrote.

In 2014, the officers — again, with the exception of Otto — were indicted. At a press conference, Mayor Nutter called the group “sick scumbags.” Ramsey said the allegations were the worst he’d heard in 40 years on the force. This month, after they were acquitted in federal court, the officers were reinstated to their jobs with back pay.

Mannix said the plaintiffs have not received an apology, and that they can never completely have the damage to their reputations repaired.

“There was never a scintilla of evidence for D.A. Williams’ attack on the credibility and honesty of the Plaintiffs, nor was there ever a scintilla of evidence for the ‘piling on’ and grandstanding statements and acts and policies of the Mayor and the Commissioner thereafter,” Mannix wrote.

He asked for an unspecified amount of damages. Spokesmen for Nutter, Ramsey, and Williams did not offer immediate comment.