A few thoughts on the RICO civil suit filed by four former Savannah cops

If you’re interested in the RICO civil lawsuit filed a few days ago by four former Savannah police officers against 11 others, the best summary might be by Jan Skutch at SavannahNow: 4 former Savannah-Chatham cops sue ex-chief Lovett, others in police corruption case.

If you want to go right to the PDF of the lawsuit itself, you can find it via the Savannah Morning News, Connect Savannah and the Savannah Business Journal.

In the interest of fairness, it’s obviously worth saying right up front that it’s hard to know what will happen to this lawsuit, although this isn’t entirely a situation of “innocent until proven guilty” — we know that criminal activity took place within the SCMPD. And it stands to reason that some good cops probably suffered career damage because of the bad cops, but that doesn’t mean that the plaintiffs will necessarily win in court.

So, RICO? A screen cap from the lawsuit:

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Among those named in the case are former Chatham County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis, former Savannah City Manager Michael Brown, and former Chatham County Manager Russ Abolt. The suit alleges that all three men were in fact informed that Willie Lovett (who became Chief and who is now in prison) was corrupt but that the three men protected him and promoted him.

In the SavannahNow coverage, Pete Liakakis has already firmly denied the allegations in the lawsuit, although the words he uses don’t match the language of the suit:

“That’s a lie. I knew absolutely nothing about a police record. … I’m upset about it.”

Liakakis said that he had several conversations with Maj. Gerbino but denied any discussion … about any kind of criminal record about Lovett. But he said that Claiborne as a lawyer has a responsibility to get definite information instead of trying to damage people.

“I intend to file an action against him whatever the law is,” he said. “I want to take an FBI lie detector test.”

Here’s a snippet from the allegations involving Liakakis:

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And here’s what the suit says about Abolt. If in fact the County Manager informed Lovett that one of his officers had called him corrupt, then that looks really, really bad. Read on:

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The allegations against Brown, which potentially could be supported by former Chief Michael Berkow, are also serious:

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As a resident who has lived for many years just a few blocks from an open air drug market that everyone has known about, I have always been frustrated by the lack of attention to obvious criminality. There really isn’t much new that I can see in this case regarding the prevalence of street-level drug dealing in the city, but a few snippets show just how obvious and corrupt the system was, with drug squad officers obviously working against the public interest:

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There is a lot more in the case than I can summarize here.

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