Source:The Times Herald


Six Philadelphia police officers planned to seek bail Monday after spending five days in custody on racketeering and robbery charges.

The narcotics investigators were charged last week with shaking down suspected drug dealers for years, making off with large sums of cash and cocaine.

Federal prosecutors have called them a flight risk and a danger to the community. However, defense lawyers said the case was built on unreliable witnesses, including a convicted former colleague and other criminals. And they said their clients have known about the investigation for years and never fled.

“The evidence in this case is weak,” lawyer Gregory Pagano wrote on behalf of client Perry Betts. “All of the government’s witnesses have been convicted of drug distribution, theft and other offenses, and many of them have filed civil lawsuits seeking monetary damages.”

The officers are accused of using gangland tactics to intimidate their targets. They twice dangled people over high-rise balconies as they demanded to know where drugs or cash was stored, and other times threatened suspects at gunpoint or roughed them up, the indictment said. The officers routinely entered homes without a search warrant, at least once using a sledge hammer to knock down a door — after locking the owner in a jail cell overnight, the indictment said.

They had been placed on desk duty for about a year, after the city’s district attorney questioned their credibility and said he would not use their testimony in court. The city has settled several civil rights lawsuits filed against some of the officers over the past decade.

In their bail motions, defense lawyers said it is not surprising the plainclothes drug investigators waved weapons as they pursued drug traffickers in the course of their work.

The officers have been in custody since their arrests Wednesday. The charges include racketeering conspiracy, extortion, robbery, kidnapping and drug dealing.

The indictment said they sometimes seized as much as $210,000 in cash but reported far less on police reports, and split the rest.

Most of the defendants face a seven-year mandatory sentence if convicted.