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A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge overturned the conviction Friday of a drug dealer arrested by members of a city narcotics unit, the first such reversal since six officers were reassigned.
Judge Diana L. Anhalt ordered a new trial for Joseph Scott, 29, who was convicted of dealing crack cocaine. He was arrested by Officers John Speiser and Brian Reynolds, two of the six officers transferred from the Narcotics Field Unit South on Dec. 3.
On that day, District Attorney Seth Williams sent Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey a letter saying he would no longer use testimony from the six officers in drug cases.
Ramsey has said the six are under investigation by a joint FBI-police task force but has not provided details. The District Attorney’s Office has withdrawn prosecutions in about 270 pretrial cases in which the officers were involved.
Anhalt’s ruling reversed a felony conviction and raised the prospect that many other such cases involving the officers could be overturned. One misdemeanor conviction previously was overturned by another judge.
Reynolds, Speiser, and the other transferred officers – Thomas Liciardello, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, and Lt. Robert Otto – were involved in more than 2,000 arrests, court records show.
In granting the new trial, Anhalt said she was doing “what’s fair” because Scott, of North Philadelphia, agreed to a plea deal only 12 days before Williams sent the letter to Ramsey.
Anhalt said the District Attorney’s Office clearly had concerns about the officers at the time prosecutors negotiated a plea agreement, but Scott was not aware of the concerns.
“I don’t believe Scott’s decision was knowing,” she said, explaining that justice is not served “when one side has all the information and the other doesn’t.”
Scott, who has been in and out of prison for firearms and drug convictions, was sentenced to nine to 23 months in prison.
Anhalt scheduled Scott’s new trial for Friday. Prosecution of the case is greatly hampered because the arresting officers will not be available as witnesses.
Read the full article by Mark Fazlollah, Inquirer Staff Writer