Conviction Review Unit Announced

April 15, 2014 by

April 15, 2014: Today, District Attorney Seth Williams announced the creation of the new Conviction Review Unit which will be led by renowned homicide prosecutor Mark Gilson. The Conviction Review Unit will work the District Attorney’s Post Conviction Relief prosecutors to review and re-investigate legitimate post-conviction claims of new evidence and declarations of innocence in accordance with the Commonwealth’s Rule of Criminal Procedure.

“Mark Gilson is the perfect person to supervise this unit,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “He was referred to as the bulldog in homicide courtrooms for good reason. Not only is he a well-respected prosecutor, his investigative techniques and knowledge of the law are above reproach. “

This new position is designed to balance the Office’s interest in investigating good faith claims of innocence with the obligation to defend valid convictions.

“This is the right thing to do,” continued DA Williams. “It is my job to uphold justice, but let’s be clear this is not a get out of prison free card for convicted felons. While we are looking at these cases with an open mind, it does not mean that we will agree with all or any new claims of innocence and or evidence. Mr. Gilson will also be working to protect valid verdicts of guilt.”

The District Attorney’s Post Conviction Relief Unit currently handles approximately 40 cases a month, roughly 500 cases a year. Of those hundreds of cases only about 3 or 4 a year are granted some sort of relief.

WAWA Robber Convicted Today

April 7, 2014 by

April 7, 2014: Today, a jury of his peers convicted Brian Elisha of Robbery and VUFA charges. The defendant entered the Wawa at Castor and Solly Aves in the early morning hours of October 22, 2009. He first entered the store to “check his ATM balance” and was caught on video without anything covering his face and wearing very distinctive sneakers. About 30 minutes later he re-entered the store in full disguise (hoody, wool jacket, hat, and bandana) armed with a shotgun and announced a robbery. The store clerk immediately ran for her life out the rear entrance and broke her leg in her haste to get out of the store and was never able to identify the robber. The entire incident was captured on video. After a through investigation by NEDD – SIU Robbery team, which included getting records from the ATMs to find the identity of the “man with the sneakers,” they identified the defendant as a suspect. It wasn’t until 6 months later, when the defendant assaulted his girlfriend and actually fired a shot at her from his apartment building with a handgun that Detectives were able to secure a search warrant for the defendants home. During the execution of that warrant, Detectives recovered the exact clothes worn by the defendant, and clearly seen in the video, along with multiple shotgun shells and other bullets. ADA Lauren McHale, with the assistance of CSU Officer John Taggart, was able to show the jury the clothes were an exact match by dressing up a life sized mannequin in the clothes during her closing. The defendant, who has a lengthy criminal record including a previous robbery conviction, will be sentenced on June 6, 2014 by the Honorable Judge Edward Wright.

Sneaker Thief Found Guilty of Aggravated Assault

April 7, 2014 by

April 8, 2014: Today, a jury found 37 year old Demond Thomas of Aggravated Assault, Robbery and gun charges for a March 2012 shooting.

On March 16, 2012, the victim was at his place of business, a sneaker and clothing stand on the 1300 Block of W. Girard Avenue, when Thomas approached him demanding a refund for a pair of sneakers. The victim refused the refund which lead to a verbal and physical altercation between the two men. During that altercation the defendant flashed a gun and then placed his hand around the victim’s neck. As they began to struggle and a crowd of spectators gathered, the victim shouted “someone call the police, he has a gun.” At that point Thomas took the gun from his waistband and shot the victim once in the upper leg. After being shot, the victim was able to break free from Thomas and escape by running down Girard Avenue. Once the victim had fled the scene, the defendant walked up to the stand and grabbed multiple pairs of sneakers before walking away.

Demond Thomas is scheduled to be sentenced by the Honorable Judge Donna Woelpperon June 20, 2014. This case was successfully prosecuted by ADA Matt Krouse of the Central Division Bureau.

Carlos Figueroa-Fagot Sentenced to 17 to 34 Years in Prison

April 4, 2014 by

April 4, 2014: Today, the Honorable Judge Alice Dubow sentenced Carlos Figueroa-Fagot to 17 to 34 years incarceration for attempting to kidnap a ten-year-old girl on July 17, 2012.

At approximately 3:50 pm, the girl was walking down the 2400 block of Lee Street in South Philadelphia with her two-year-old brother to buy water ice when Figueroa-Fagot pulled up in his car, exited and picked up the victim and attempted to carry her to his car as her little brother stood frozen screaming. She was able to free herself partially at which point Figueroa-Fagot again picked her up and put his hand over her mouth as she screamed. The victim continued to struggle and was able to break free. She began to run away before realizing her little brother was frozen on the spot. Heroically, she ran back, grabbed her brother and led him also to safety. Figueroa-Fagot jumped back into his car and fled.

The case was solved through the recovery of surveillance tape showing the abduction and fine police work by Police Investigator Edward Lichtenhahn.

A jury convicted the defendant on September 12, 2013 of Attempted Kidnapping, Unlawful Contact with a Minor, Indecent Assault and related offenses. At sentencing, the victim’s mother testified that the girl and her little brother still suffer nightmares and other trauma from the attack.

“This ten-year-old girl showed extraordinary courage in breaking free of her abductor and also running back to save her little brother. This defendant almost got away with every parent’s worst nightmare and Judge Dubow has wisely removed him from our streets for the next several decades,” said ADA Branwen McNabb.

ADA Joe McGlynn tried the case and ADA Branwen McNabb handled the sentencing.

Former Elementary School Teacher Convicted of Raping his Daughter

April 2, 2014 by

April 2, 2014: Today, a jury found Sumo Dukulah guilty of Rape of a Child, Rape Forcible Compulsion, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse Forcible Compulsion, Unlawful Contact with a Minor, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and Corruption of Minors charges.

Dukulah, a former teacher at L.P. Hill Elementary School in Philadelphia, was arrested in April of 2013 when his daughter disclosed that he had been sexually abusing her for approximately eight years.

The evidence showed that the victim’s mother found out about the abuse years before, but sided with her husband and told her daughter not to tell anyone about the abuse because it would bring shame onto the family. The defendant continued to abuse the young girl until she disclosed in April of 2013.

The victim showed great courage and strength not only in disclosing the abuse, but during the course of the trial. During the week-long trial, her mother, many members of the defendant’s church, and other family friends appeared in court in support of the defendant. Yet, despite all of the hostility she faced from her own family for disclosing Dukulah’s brutal assaults, she remained resilient during her testimony.

“I want to commend this extremely brave young woman,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “Not only did she heroically face her attacker in court, she had to pay an unimaginable price for that heroism. This poor girl lost most of her support system, including her own mother, for simply testifying about the horrific abuse she had to endure. At a time when it is difficult for my office to get witnesses to non-violent crimes to come to court, her bravery should serve as an example to everyone in Philadelphia. I hope this verdict gives her a sense of validation, and I hope the knowledge that her voice was heard helps her as she continues to make her future. I would also like to commend ADA Branwen McNabb and ADA Elizabeth Fischer of my Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit who successfully prosecuted this very difficult case.”

The defendant now faces a mandatory minimum of 10 to 20 years incarceration, and a maximum of 64 to 128 years of incarceration. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 29, 2014 in courtroom 1102.

Off Duty Police Officer Charged with Terroristic Threats

April 2, 2014 by

April 2, 2014: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has charged 34 year old Edward Sawicki III with Terroristic Threats, PIC, Simple Assault, Harassment, and Disorderly Conduct for an incident that occurred in October of 2013. Sawicki, an officer with the Philadelphia Police Department, was off duty at the time of the assault.

On October 20, 2013, at approximately 2:45 AM, the victim was walking near in the 1300 block of S. 9th St. when he came into contact with Edward Sawicki. Sawicki was backing up in his vehicle when the vehicle struck the victim, hitting him in the knee. The victim then pounded on the trunk of Sawicki’s vehicle with his hand in order to alert Sawicki that he backed into him. Sawicki exited the car, pulled up his shirt showing a gun, and rushed at the victim. Sawicki then yelled racial epitaphs at the victim and threatened to kill him. At one point Sawicki stated “N#!!er, I’ll smoke you” while keeping his hand on the holstered gun. The victim immediately contacted the police, Sawicki was identified as an off-duty Philadelphia police officer, and Sawicki’s gun, which was his city-issued firearm, was confiscated.

Edward Sawicki III turned himself into authorities this morning and he is currently being processed by police.

Teens Charged As Adults

March 26, 2014 by

March 26, 2014: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has charged 16 year old Najee Bilaal, 15 year old Zaria Estes, and 15 year old Kanesha Gainey with Aggravated Assault, Conspiracy, Possession of an Instrument of a Crime (PIC), Terroristic Threats, Simple Assault and Recklessly Endangering Another Person (REAP) for several assaults near the Temple campus on March 21, 2014. All three defendants have been charged as Direct File Juveniles; i.e. they have been charged as adults by the District Attorney’s Office. The defendants have been arraigned; bail for Gainey was set at $75,000, and bail for Estes and Bilaal was set at $100,000 each. The next listing for all three is April 10, 2014 in courtroom 1006.

Recent Arrests and Charges

March 24, 2014 by

March 24, 2013: A Philadelphia Indicting Grand Jury today charged Marcellus Jones with Murder, Conspiracy, Robbery, VUFA, PIC, Theft by Unlawful Taking, and Receiving Stolen Property for the 2008 murder of Beau Zabel. ADA Jude Conroy is specially assigned to this case.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has charged Tyler Bollinger, Carlos Jimenez, Edward Farrell, David Cramp, Hellena Andro, John Farrell, and Ryan Palen with Aggravated Assault, PIC, Simple Assault, and REAP for the March 21, 2014 stabbings of three people on the 7500 block of Rowland Avenue. All seven defendants are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on April 11, 2014 at 1801 Vine Street.

District Attorney’s Office ADA’s Help with March Madness

March 21, 2014 by

March 21, 2013: “What is the capital of Mongolia?”  “Which element is number 49 on the periodic table?”  These are two of the questions that hundreds of students will be answering at the 13th Annual Fishtown March Madness.  The competition is one of Philadelphia’s largest academic tournaments, and features hundreds of students from Kensington, Port Richmond and Fishtown.

The Madness begins at 3:30 pm today at Shissler Recreation Center on the 1800 block of Blair Street.  The students face off in an academic bowl competition structured like the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  The games consist of questions and answers with varying point levels and degrees of difficulty.  The winners of each game advance to later rounds.   The event organizer, A.J. Thomson, is an Assistant District Attorney in the office’s East Bureau.  In order to develop a better relationship and cultivate trust in the community members of the DA’s office participate in activities in the communities they represent in court.  “March Madness is a celebration of education in our community,” said ADA A.J. Thomson. “We use the brackets to create the excitement, but the kids turn the basketball court into an arena for intelligence.  I am impressed each year with the way they have prepared and how the make everyone proud.”

This year, Fishtown will honor its Teachers of the Year along with students who will receive the Student Citizenship Awards.  All students receive prizes for participation, free refreshments and other awards throughout this fun, community-sponsored event, which emphasizes the importance of education in the Fishtown area.



Arrest in “Fake” Allstate Claim

March 19, 2014 by

March 17, 2014:  Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit (IFU) detectives began to investigate 49 year old Nathaniel Brown after receiving a fraud referral from Allstate Insurance Company. On December 28, 2011, Brown reported that his 2000 Mercury Villager was stolen from 100 East Rittenhouse Street in Philadelphia. Brown further claimed that inside of the Villager were a forty-two inch SONY television and a portable DVD player. In support of his claim, Brown submitted a receipt for the television and DVD player to Allstate which alleged that the electronics had been purchased at Lowill’s Jewelry Pawn Shop for over six hundred dollars. Allstate investigators interviewed the owner of Lowill’s Jewelry Pawn Shop who stated that Nathaniel Brown had never been a customer of her business. Detectives also contacted the owner of the pawn shop who once again stated that she had never sold a television or DVD player to Brown. Brown was then arrested for Insurance Fraud, Attempted Theft by Deception and Forgery. He is next scheduled to appear in Philadelphia Municipal Court on March 24, 2014.

 ADA Vicki Markovitz and Detective Gilbert Brook of the IFU are specially assigned to this case.


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