The shootout in Philadelphia that hurt several police officers, but did not lead to kidnapping charges, has turned political. A federal prosecutor blamed progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner for the shooting.
The problem, though, is arguably that it was the federal government that shortened the shooter's prior sentence on a gun crime.
It's complicated. Criminal defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento explains.
Police Shootout in Philadelphia Ends, Finger-Pointing Begins
Almost as soon as the Philadelphia shootout ended with six police officers hurt and the suspect in custody, the blame game began.
The day after the shooting, William McSwain, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania at the Department of Justice, issued a statement through the DOJ. In it, he directly blamed Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner for the shooting.
He claimed that Krasner was responsible for the “new culture of disrespect for law enforcement.” He blamed Krasner for “entire sections of the criminal code that are ignored…especially the existing gun laws and drug laws,” and said that Krasner was “making excuses for criminals.” This attitude, in the eyes of McSwain, was behind the shooter's presence in the public – a man who McSwain called a “previously convicted felon with a long rap sheet.”
All of this, McSwain said, “precipitated” the shooting, creating a “disrespect so flagrant and so reckless that the suspect immediately opened fire on every single officer within shooting distance.”
The problem, though, is that it was McSwain's own office that asked for a lenient sentence for one of the shooter's recent convictions. That conviction was on a gun charge.
Federal Prosecutors Had Asked for a Lenient Sentence on Gun Conviction
An investigation by The Appeal uncovered documents that the shooter had pled guilty in June 2008 to being a felon in possession of a firearm with federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He was sentenced in 2010.
During sentencing, a strange thing happened. The federal prosecutors asked for a lighter sentence than the mandatory minimum in the sentencing guidelines – the exact same kind of “downward departure” on a gun charge that McSwain was blaming Krasner for pursuing. Federal prosecutors asked for leniency because the eventual shooter had “cooperated with the Government” and “provided information about a shooter that led to an arrest.”
In short, federal prosecutors wanted a lighter sentence because their suspect had been an informant.
The shooter was eventually sentenced to 55 months in jail, followed by three years of supervised release. It was not a short jail sentence, but it was much shorter than the 75-month average for similar charges.
There's not enough information to tell whether the shooter would have still been on supervised release at the time of the shooting, were it not for the downward departure from McSwain's office. It's unclear if the shooter's jail sentence included time already spent in jail, or not.
What is clear, though, is that U.S. Attorney McSwain either neglected to look up the shooter's prior criminal record before publishing his criticism of District Attorney Krasner or hoped no one would notice the facts. Granted, McSwain was not sworn in as U.S. Attorney until April 6, 2018, so it could have been the case that this information was not known to him at the time he voiced his most recent concerns regarding Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
If you have been charged with a crime in Philadelphia, call defense attorney Joseph D. Lento at (215) 535-5353 or contact him online.