Nearly 450 Drug Convictions Reversed After Cops Were Framing Totally Innocent People

Gina Carrano | Courthouse News Service


PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A Philadelphia man claims in court that he spent more than two years in jail on bogus drug charges because several city police officers conspired to plant false evidence in his car.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, Leroy Gonzalez claims he was just one of many who have been framed by the narcotics officers who were acquitted of corruption charges after a federal jury trial in May 2015.

Prosecutors had alleged the men routinely beat and robbed drug suspects.

Following their acquittal, the officers went to arbitration and got their jobs back in July 2015, although one of the officers was forced to retire after he failed the mandatory drug test he had to submit to before returning to duty.

The allegations prompted dozens of civil rights lawsuits, causing the reversal of nearly 450 drug convictions. In October 2016, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond ordered the officers not to have contact with any former defendants who have sued them and the city over their arrests.

In his lawsuit, Leroy Gonzalez says he was wrongfully charged with drug possession and sales when the policeman “unlawfully and maliciously planted numerous items of false evidence in [his] vicinity to create the illusion of probable cause [and] justify their grossly illegal police misconduct.”

After his arrest, Gonzalez contends, he was charged with the crimes and served a 754-day sentence before hearing that three of the four officers who stopped him had been implicated in a corruption probe.

Facing jail time after being apprehended in a drug-related robbery, Officer Jeffrey Walker pointed the finger in court at colleagues Thomas Liciardello, Michael Spicer and Perry Betts, according to the complaint. He claimed that the trio was complicit in acts like producing fake evidence, conducting illegal drug stings and lying in testimonies, Gonzalez says.

As recounted in the complaint, Gonzalez was sitting along in his car when the officers approached and forcibly searched the vehicle without probably cause.

When their search allegedly came up empty, Gonzalez  says, the officers threw him to the ground and cuffed him anyway, producing fake evidence to justify his arrest.

Liciardello, Spicer and Betts were investigated and charged with corruption after Walker blew the whistle on them.

While the three officers were acquitted, Walker is currently serving a 42-month prison sentence on corruption charges.

After news of the corruption investigation broke, Gonzalez filed a petition seeking a new trial, which was promptly granted.

He says all  charges against him were dismissed “due, in large part, to the admissions of police misconduct by former Police Officer Jeffrey Walker and [Pennsylvania’s] own investigation into the matter.”

Gonzalez now wants compensation for the years he served in jail, claiming his incarceration was a direct result of malfeasance by the officers.

He says they conspired to engage “in concealment, fraud and subterfuge to prevent the relevant and truthful facts of [his] arrest from being discovered until August 7, 2015.”

He is seeking unspecified damages for alleged assault, false arrest, malicious prosecution and invasion of privacy. He also claims the officers defamed him by making untrue public statements about a crime he did not commit.

A representative of the Philadelphia Police Department said in a Tuesday morning that the department had no comment on the lawsuit.

The City of Philadelphia is also named as a defendant in the suit.

Gonzalez is represented by Coley Reynolds of the Omni Law Group in Philadelphia.

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