Archive for the ‘Press Release’ Category

Philadelphia Firefighter Charged with Domestic Abuse Assault

October 3, 2014

October 2, 2014: The Philadelphia District Attorneys Office has charged 38 year old Michael Lawson and 28 year old Sada Greenlee with
Aggravated Assault, Conspiracy, Simple Assault, Recklessly Endangering Another Person (REAP), Possession of Instrument of a Crime (PIC), Terroristic Threats, Simple Assault and other related charges for assaulting Lawson’s ex-wife and her current boyfriend. Lawson’s ex-wife is currently eight months pregnant. The pair are charged for two assaults, the first occurred on September 15, 2014 and the second on September 30, 2014. Lawson and Greenlee were arraigned overnight, bail was set at $75,000 each, and their next court date is scheduled for October 20, 2014 in courtroom 906.

Three People Charged for Center City Attack

September 23, 2014

September 23, 2014: The District Attorney’s Office has approved arrest warrants in connection with the assault of a gay couple on the 1600 block of Chancellor Street in Philadelphia on September 11, 2014. The individuals to be charged are 24-year-old Philip Williams, 26-year-old Kevin Harrigan, and 24-year-old Katherine Knott. All three defendants are from Bucks County. Each will be charged with two (2) counts of Aggravated Assault, two (2) counts of Simple Assault, two (2) counts of Recklessly Endangering Another Person (REAP), and one (1) count of Criminal Conspiracy. Once charged the defendants will be arrested by police.

“I would like to thank the police for their thorough investigation and the public for the outpouring of information and tips in this case,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “This vicious attack shocked the entire country. An assault on people because of their sexual orientation has no place in Philadelphia.”

Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Will Re-Try Gerald Gibson

September 19, 2014

September 19, 2014: Today, the Honorable Diana Anhalt declared a mistrial in the theft case against Gerald Gibson. Jurors were not able to reach a unanimous verdict on all charges against the former Philadelphia police officer. Those charges included Theft, Obstruction of the Administration of Law, and Receiving Stolen Property for a January 2013 incident that occurred while Gibson was on duty as a narcotics officer. On January 31, 2013, Gibson was recorded on video by Federal Agents taking currency from a staged vehicle.

“This is just a minor delay in seeking justice,” said ADA Douglas Rhoads. “The Commonwealth looks forward to re-trying this case as soon as possible.”

District Attorney Seth Williams Joins Prosecutors across the Country to Announce New Coalition to Curb Gun Violence

September 19, 2014

September 17, 2014:  In a groundbreaking effort to combat gun violence, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams joined prosecutors from across the United States to announce the formation of PROSECUTORS AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE, (PAGV), an independent, non-partisan coalition organized to identify and promote prosecutorial and policy solutions to the national public health and safety crisis of gun violence.

“It is a pleasure and an honor to be working with this group of prosecutors who have been dealing with similar issues of gun violence in their communities,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “By collaborating, identifying best practices, and discussing research I am certain we will make a real difference in improving public safety not only here in Philadelphia, but also across the entire country.”

PAGV was formed and co-chaired by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. The group will convene the first-ever prosecutorial summit on gun violence prevention in Atlanta on October 21st and 22nd, focusing on best prosecutorial practices, gang violence reduction, illegal weapons trafficking, the nexus between domestic violence and gun violence, the link between mental health issues and gun violence, and other initiatives.  PAGV will announce additional summit details shortly.

“For prosecutors, gun violence is not a partisan issue,” said District Attorney Vance.  “It’s a public health and safety crisis that claims lives and destabilizes communities in every jurisdiction in America.  By coming together to share intelligence and advocate for pragmatic, non-partisan solutions, law enforcement officials can achieve lasting progress on gun violence.”

“Together, prosecutors across our nation can make a major impact on the gun violence afflicting our communities,” said City Attorney Feuer.  “Our members will draw from our colleagues’ most effective strategies and join forces to advance policies that can save lives.  Prosecutors have expertise and credibility that are hard to dismiss.”

The growing coalition includes prosecutors from Atlanta, Boston, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portland, Queens, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle and Staten Island.

Social Security Employees Charged With Welfare Fraud Scheme

September 9, 2014

September 5, 2014:  Today, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office as a result of a joint investigation with the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General and the United States Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General arrested five (5) people for a complex welfare, childcare, and medical benefits scheme.  31-year-old Sakeenah Belle, 31-year-old Chanae Thomas, 30-year-old Felicia Fernandez, 38-year-old Abigail Millian aka Abigail Puscama, and 30-year-old Shonda Wayman have been charged with Welfare Fraud, Forgery, Theft and other related crimes.  Altogether the five defendants received over $76,000 in SNAP, Subsidized Child Care and Medical Assistant benefits.

Sakeenah Belle, Chanae Thomas and Felicia Fernandez were all employed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and are charged with under reporting their annual income in order to fraudulently qualify for food, child care and health benefits from the government.  Shonda Wayman and Abigail Millian were both employed at the Reading Rainbow Learning Center on North 3rd Street in Philadelphia, and they are charged with conspiring with Belle, Thomas and Fernandez in order to continue receiving those fraudulent benefits.

On March 6, 2012, the Social Security Administration (SSA) received a complaint alleging that SSA employee Sakeenah Belle was involved in the misuse of her computer and hard drive assigned to her by SSA.  Belle was accused of using her SSA computer to create fictitious Earnings and Leave Statements for herself, two other SSA employees, and two Philadelphia day care workers. It was alleged that the fictitious Earnings and Leave Statements created by Belle were being used to gain eligibility, or to remain eligible for Welfare Benefits, Medical Assistance Benefits and Subsidized Child Care Benefits.  SSA agents investigated the allegations and forwarded the information to the State Inspector General’s Office.  The Inspector General’s Office then referred the case the District Attorney’s Office.  Detectives from the DA’s Government Fraud Unit arrested the defendants this morning, and they are currently being processed by the Philadelphia Police Department.

 Total Benefits

  1. Based upon Sakeenah Belle’s submission of forged and altered Earnings and Leave Statements, her misstatements and concealments of material facts regarding her true and correct wages and access to Medical Assistance Benefits, it was determined that between March 1, 2009 and December 31, 2012 Sakeenah Bell fraudulently obtained $4,072.00 in SNAP Benefits and $2,805 in Subsidized Child Care (CCIS Benefits), a total of $6,877.00.  The Medical Assistance transcripts indicates for the period between March 1, 2009 and December 31, 2012 Sakeenah Belle obtained $32,219.00.
  2.  Based upon Chanae Thomas’ submission of forged and altered Earnings and Leave Statements, her misstatements and concealments of material facts to the Department of Public Welfare regarding her true and correct wages and her household composition, and family access to Medical Assistance Benefits from the SSA it was determined that between June 1, 2009 and October 20, 2012 Chanae Thomas fraudulently obtained $15,689.00 in Medical Assistance Benefits.
  3.  Based upon Felicia Fernandez’s submission of forged and altered Earnings and Leave Statements, her misstatements and concealment of Material Facts from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare regarding her true and correct wages, regarding the status of her family health benefits from her employer the United States Social Security Administration it was determined that between October 1, 2009 and October 31, 2012 Felicia Fernandez fraudulently obtained $950.00 in SNAP benefits.  A review of the Medical Assistance Transcripts indicates that between October 1, 2009 and October 31, 2012 Fernandez obtained $6,292.00 in Medical Assistance Benefits.
  4.  Based upon Shonda Wayman’s submission of forged and altered paystubs from Reading Rainbow Learning Center and her submission of two letters which contained false wage and employment information and her misstatements and concealments of material facts from the Department of Public Welfare it was determined that between January 17, 2012 and January 13, 20013 Shonda Wayman fraudulently obtained $2,675.00 in SNAP Benefits.
  5.  Based upon Abigail Millian aka Abigail Puscama submission of forged and alter paystubs from Reading Rainbow Learning Center and her concealment of material facts and false statements from the Department of Public Welfare it was determined that between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012 Abigail Millian aka Abigail Puscama fraudulently obtained $4,073.00 in SNAP Benefits. 


Bail Set at 2 (M) Million Dollars for Kenneth Todd

August 8, 2014

August 8, 2014: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has charged 47 year old Kenneth Todd with Aggravated Assault, Robbery, Burglary, Criminal Trespass, Theft by Unlawful Taking, Theft Receiving Stolen Property (RSP), Unlawful Restraint, Simple Assault, and Recklessly Endangering Another Person for a violent home invasion/robbery on July 25, 2014. He is also facing Burglary, Criminal Trespass, Theft by Unlawful Taking, and Theft RSP charges for an incident that occurred on July 23, 2014. Both incidents took place on the 1300 block of Pine Street.

Todd was arraigned this afternoon, bail was set at 2 (m) million dollars, and his next court date is scheduled for August 26, 2014 in courtroom 903.

Cornelius Crawford and Jonathan Rosa to Face Additional Murder Charge

August 8, 2014

August 8, 2014: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office will charge Cornelius Crawford and Jonathan Rosa each with an additional count of Murder after Keisha Williams passed away on Thursday night. Crawford and Rosa will now face four counts of Second Degree Murder and Conspiracy for the deaths of Keisha Williams and her three children; 15 year old Keiearra Williams, 10 year old Joseph Reed, and 7 year old Terrance Moore.

“My heart continues to break for the family and friends of Keisha, Keiearra, Joseph and Terrance,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “The thoughts and prayers of my office continue to be with everyone affected by the senseless crimes that occurred on July 25th. I hope the knowledge that I am prosecuting these defendants to the fullest extent of the law will give the family some sense of justice during this time of unimaginable grief.”

Cases Involving Narcotics Officer Now Facing Federal Charges

July 30, 2014

July 30, 2014: Today, United States Attorney Zane Memeger announced the indictment of six Philadelphia Narcotics Officers-Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, and John Speiser- for numerous federal charges.

Two years ago, in 2012, the District Attorney’s Office notified the Philadelphia Police Department that, as a matter of prosecutorial discretion, it would no longer rely on testimony from Officers Liciardello, Reynolds, Spicer, Betts, and Speiser. As a result, there are no open active cases involving these officers.

The Office is now reviewing cases involving Officer Norman from the relevant time period.

Now that the federal investigation has been completed, the District Attorney’s Office will review previous convictions involving these six officers and will take appropriate action. When a decision is made on these cases the District Attorney’s Office will notify the public and the press.

A Grand Jury Concludes Philadelphia Teen Not Injured by Female Police Officer

July 17, 2014

July 17, 2014: On January 7, 2014, a group of seven (7) teenaged boys exited a SEPTA subway platform at the northwest corner of Broad Street and Girard Avenue. Less than two (2) minutes later the teens came into contact with Philadelphia police officers, that fact has never publicly been disputed. It is the events that occurred after that contact that have been debated in the public and press, and have led to accusations of police misconduct.

Members of an Investigating Grand Jury, after reviewing countless hours of evidence, surveillance video, and witness statements since February of 2014 concluded that the police acted responsibly and that no criminal act was committed by any members of the police department on that day. The Grand Jurors also concluded that the version of the day’s events were exaggerated by the alleged victim (listed in the Grand Jury report as Student #1) and his family.

“The findings of this Grand Jury are exactly why I cautioned people not to rush to judgment in this case,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “I owe it to the people of Philadelphia to examine all allegations of criminal activity methodically and professionally, and not let public outcry effect my office in any way. In this instance that public outcry was misplaced and inaccurate.”

”The prosecutor is a minister of justice and responsible for protecting the integrity of the criminal justice system,” continued the District Attorney. “Seeking justice means holding offenders accountable, protecting the innocent, and preserving the rights of all. Justice also requires – at all times – the representation and presentation of the truth.”

The incident in question occurred on Girard Avenue, between Broad Street and North 15th Street. There are several surveillance cameras in this area that captured distinct portions of the police interaction with Student #1 and the other students at the time of the incident. Specifically, the Investigating Grand Jury reviewed the following surveillance videos: (1) the street-level view from the Girard Avenue stop of the Broad Street Line (BSL), which is located on the northwest corner of Broad and Girard and faces west; (2) a Philadelphia Police Department (“PPD”) Real Time Crime Center (“RTCC”) camera affixed to a light pole on the northeast corner of Girard Avenue and Carlisle Street, which is one-half block west of Broad Street; (3) a RTCC camera affixed to a light pole on the northeast corner of Girard Avenue and 15th Street; and (4) a camera installed in a SEPTA trolley that was traveling east on Girard Avenue.

Student #1 is a sophomore at Mathematics, Civics, and Sciences Charter School (“MCSCS”), and a member of the varsity basketball team for the school. The team plays its home games at a gymnasium at the Berean Institute, which is located at 1901 West Girard Avenue. Team members travel to the gymnasium on their own because MCSCS does not provide transportation, and therefore some team members take public transportation – the BSL subway.

Timeline of the events

January 7, 2014:
At 1:54:17 p.m., Student #1 along with six of his teammates are seen on video exited the subway at the Girard Avenue stop.

At 1:54:37 p.m., a PPD van traveling east on Girard Avenue is captured on a SEPTA camera approaching and crossing Carlisle Street. The van was traveling east on Girard Avenue, and it faced the students, who were walking west on the northern sidewalk of Girard Avenue. Police Officer Thomas Purcell was driving the van, and Officer Frank Sackosky was his passenger. The officers were in the middle of an assignment transferring a homeless elderly man from St. Joseph’s Hospital to Temple University Medical Center.

At 1:54:56 p.m., as the seven students were walking west on Girard Avenue, while the police van continues to travel down the opposite side of Girard. At this point the van and the students were almost side-by-side.

At 1:54:57 p.m., several students, including Student #1, faced the police wagon and appeared to be shouting something at police.

At 1:55:07 p.m., the van stopped in the middle of Girard Avenue, Officer Purcell testified that he thought that one of the students was saying something to the officers. His testimony in this regard was corroborated by testimony from the students, including Student #1, who testified that someone in his group said something to the police and that the officer’s face changed from a smile to a look of concern. Officer Purcell testified that he could not hear the student because the van windows were closed. Unsure whether the students needed help or were trying to communicate with the police, he opened his door and asked the students what they said. Officer Purcell further testified that he did not hear any response from the students; the students, including Student #1, agreed that they did not respond to the officer.

At 1:55:22 p.m., Officer Purcell activated the police lights on the van in order to perform a U-turn on the busy street. He also testified that he was performing a U-turn to further investigate whether the students were victims of or witnesses to a crime, hence their trying to get the officers’ attention. He explained that, once he made a U-turn, he could pull over next to the students and his partner in the passenger seat could talk to them and hear what they were saying.

At 1:55:24 p.m., the police van was halfway through its U-turn, when five students, including Student #1, started to run west down Girard Avenue onto 15th street. The two remaining students continued to walk down the street.

At 1:55:36 p.m., the police van stopped just before the intersection at 15th Street, and Officer Sackosky exited the van because he observed one of the students hiding behind a parked car. Officer Purcell then turned the van north onto 15th Street and stopped. Officer Purcell testified that he saw Student #1 hiding behind a car parked along the eastern side of 15th Street. Student #1’s teammate also testified that he and Student #1 were hiding “a little bit” by crouching down behind a car until they stood up when the police arrived.

At 1:56:04 p.m., Officer Purcell and Student #1 made contact at the driver-side rear corner of the police van.

At 1:56:08 p.m., Officer Purcell and Student #1 began walking along the driver’s side of the police van from its rear to its front, heading north on 15th Street. There does not appear to be any struggle at this point. It is unclear if Officer Purcell had his hand on Student #1’s left arm to guide him along the van.

At 1:56:11 p.m., Officer Sackosky was talking to one of the students in the open lot next to the northeast corner of 15th Street and Girard Avenue. That student testified that the officer was merely asking questions, and even described Officer Sackosky as being polite and appropriate in his demeanor and interaction.

At 1:56:47 p.m., Officer Purcell and Student #1 were standing on the driver’s side of the police van near the hood of a white minivan parked on 15th Street. Student #1 can be seen on video turning his body around to the right as the officer tried to direct him toward the minivan. Student #1 then faced the officer, and that’s when Officer Purcell testified that Student #1 became combative and pushed the officer in the chest area. At this point, there was clear physical contact between Officer Purcell and Student #1, and Student #1 is seen clearly resisting the officer. Student #1 can be seen in video physically struggling against Officer Purcell, and one of the other students testified that when the officer tried to hold onto Student #1’s arm, Student #1 pulled his arm away.

At 1:57:30 p.m., two other students were standing on the northwest corner of 15th Street and Girard Avenue, watching Student #1 struggle against Officer Purcell. They testified that the officer told Student #1 to put his hands behind his back, but that Student #1 was trying to prevent the officer from putting the handcuffs on him by moving his body and hands, and doing everything he could to prevent the officer from getting handcuffs on Student #1’s wrists.

By 1:57:34 p.m., Officer Sackosky had joined Officer Purcell to assist with the arrest of Student #1. Another student testified that the officers could not force Student #1 to the ground because Student #1 did not want to go to the ground and be arrested. He also testified that Student #1 refused to go to the ground and was resisting the police officers from putting him on the ground. At this point an unidentified woman started yelling at Student #1 not to fight with the police.

At 1:57:42 p.m., Officer Sackosky made an “officer-assist” call requesting back up and then rejoined Officer Purcell in trying to control the still-struggling Student #1. An officer-assist call is the number one priority call for police, to get [officers] there in a timely manner to prevent a situation from escalating to the point where it’s out of the police department’s control, or a police officer is facing serious bodily injury or possibly death. The 22nd police district, where the incident with Student #1 occurred, is one of the most violent districts in Philadelphia, and has approximately 10 officer-assist calls per week.

At 1:58:17 p.m., Student #1 can be seen on video on the ground resisting, rolling around and not staying still with Officer Sackosky on top of him. Student #1’s torso can be seen lifting off the ground while his lower body moves around as the officer tried to obtain control of him. According to one of the other students, even after Officer Sackosky threatened to use a Taser on Student #1, Student #1 continued to move around and kick his legs to try and resist against the officers.

At 1:58:35 p.m., the first back-up car is seen arriving in response to the officer-assist call.

At 1:59:07 p.m., Student #1 continued to struggle against the officers’ attempts to subdue him. He continued to flail his arms and legs, trying to move his body around so that the police had difficulty handcuffing him. Officer Purcell then locked his left leg with Student #1 in a further attempt to hold Student #1 still so that they could place handcuffs on him. The officers also were giving Student #1 oral commands to be quiet, to calm down and to relax; Student #1 continued to yell at the officers, “get the f#!k off me.” Even though Student #1 was “extremely belligerent and resistant,” the police officers on the scene only employed control holds on Student #1. They did not use any of the other tools available to them on their force continuum – they did not use pepper spray, batons, or Tasers.

At 1:59:48 p.m., Officers Purcell and Sackosky lifted Student #1, now handcuffed, off the ground.

At 1:59:59 p.m., Student #1 was standing at the back of the police van with Officers Cucinotta and Purcell. The officers initially were going to place Student #1 in the back of the van but could not because the homeless elderly man was already inside.

At 2:00:03 p.m., Student #1 is seen on video being escorted towards Officer Cucinotta’s patrol car, which was parked directly behind the police van.

At 2:01:33 p.m., Student #1 is seen in front of Officer Cucinotta’s patrol car. Multiple witnesses testified about the subsequent patdown and frisk of Student #1 while he was next to the police car. Pursuant to established police protocol, Student #1 was being patted down and searched because he was under arrest. Due to his prior resistance and continued belligerent conduct, one officer held Student #1’s left arm, while another officer hooked his left arm into Student #1’s right arm to try to gain more control of Student #1. Despite the fact that two officers were holding his arms and the heavy police presence of police, Student #1 continued to yell and curse at the officers, and continued to move his body. The officers who were holding Student #1 told him to stay still and stop moving, but he refused to do so. Student #1 admitted during grand jury testimony that he refused to be quiet as requested by the officers. Officer Cucinotta, the only female on the scene, testified that she wanted to assist in any way possible and she attempted to help by performing a standard frisk of Student #1. She first checked Student #1’s back pockets; the pockets were clear. She then attempted to check his genital area for weapons and contraband, as she was trained to do. But because Student #1’s pants were sagged down at the crotch but tight on his legs, and because he was also wearing long underwear beneath his khakis, she was physically unable to reach his genital area, and so she moved on. She next went to check Student #1’s waistband area. When her hand touched his front waistband, Student #1 lunged his body forward against the patrol car, stuck out his rear end, and said “get the f#!k off of me.” That’s when a male officer took over the search. That male officer, Officer Wolfe, was the only police officer who successfully searched Student #1’s genital area. Officer Wolfe and Officer Cucinotta testified that they never grabbed, pulled or squeezed Student #1’s testicles during their successful and attempted searches of Student #1’s midsection.

At 2:03:57 p.m., Student #1 was escorted across Girard Avenue to another patrol car for transport to the 9th police district. While walking across the street, moments after the search, Student #1 was not limping and appeared to be walking normally. While standing near and/or against the driver’s side of the police car, Student #1 was searched again before he was placed in the back of the Wolfe/Rios patrol car; this was done pursuant to standard police procedure. Once again, Officer Wolfe performed the search. No contraband or weapons were found.

At 2:04:31 p.m., Student #1 can been seen standing near the police car. At this time he complained to police that he had been hit in the head by handcuffs during his struggle with Officers Purcell and Sackosky. This complaint about a head injury was the only one that Student #1 made to police. He never complained to any of the officers on the scene about his testicles or having his testicles squeezed, pulled and grabbed.

At 2:12:20 p.m., Officer Wolfe, with Officer Rios in the passenger seat, began driving south on 15th Street in order to transport Student #1 to the 9th police district. During the drive, Officer Wolfe asked Student #1 two or three times if he was injured; Student #1 repeatedly responded that he was not. Student #1 admitted under oath that Officer Wolfe asked him if he had any injuries: “I told him no. That was it.” Officer Wolfe even told Student #1 that he was going to take him to the hospital to have Student #1’s claimed head injury checked; Student #1 specifically declined such a visit. Student #1 never said that his testicles had been injured or that they hurt.

At 2:27 p.m., Officer Wolfe is seen parking his patrol car outside of the 9th district police station. Two minutes later, Student #1 was escorted into the building. In the brief walk from the car to the building, Student #1 was not limping and appeared to be walking normally. Inside the station, while filling out a medical report Student #1 was asked whether he had any pain or injury; Student #1 responded “no.” He also answered “no” to the question “is there anything else you should inform us of to ensure your well-being?” After answering the questions from the Medical Checklist, Student #1 signed the form. Student #1 never complained to any officer in the 9th District police station about being in pain, or having his testicles grabbed or squeezed, or having injured his testicles. Student #1 admitted that during grand jury testimony.

January 8, 2014:
Student #1 went to school at MCSCS the next morning, but did not attend class. Instead, he met with the school principal and members of the MCSCS school board. Student #1 testified before the Grand Jury that he told school board members and principal that his “balls got squeezed, but it’s okay. It’s fine.” The school administrators then suggested that Student #1 go to the hospital. Student #1’s mother then took him to the Emergency Department of the Children Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

At 12:43 p.m., Student #1 arrived at CHOP approximately 22½ hours after his struggle with and arrest by the PPD. During his examination in the Emergency Department, Student #1 told the attending physician that he was injured as a result of an assault by a police officer. Specifically, Student #1 told the physician that a female officer had “grabbed his balls real hard twice’ while she was frisking him.” He also stated that the pain from the assault lasted several minutes. During his physical examination, Student #1 said he was experiencing “mild pain” to the left testicle, but only when it was touched. There was no discoloration or bruising of his left scrotum. Student #1 also acknowledged that he had a pre-existing condition- a varicocele in his left scrotum. Based on Student #1’s narrative, doctors recommended that an ultrasound of his scrotum be performed to determine if there was any injury to his left testicle.

At 4:10 p.m., Dr. Gregory Tasian, the attending pediatric urologist that afternoon, spoke to Student #1 and his mother. They repeated to Dr. Tasian that Student #1 had been assaulted by a female police officer, who had “grabbed his nuts hard.” He also told that doctor that “the pain lasted for several minutes,” but he said he was not nauseous or vomiting. The doctor also was told that the alleged assault had occurred at 2:00 p.m. that day, January 8, 2014–not the previous day.

Dr. Tasian testified to the Grand Jury that the narrative a patient provides is one of the most important things he considers when assessing a patient. The patient’s narrative is “essential” and guides the doctors as they interpret the ultrasound and look for specific things that would be consistent with the trauma described by the patient. The doctor testified that “without that history of trauma, or alleged trauma to the scrotum, then you would have no reason to think that there would be a rupture of the testicle. A testicle doesn’t spontaneously rupture. It has to happen for some reason due to force.” Dr. Tasian then performed a physical examination of Student #1. While Student #1 reported some tenderness when his left testicle was touched, Dr. Tasian could not feel a ruptured testicle and the testicle was smooth all the way around, as it should be. Dr. Tasian also noted that pain from a ruptured testicle would “absolutely” last longer than several minutes – it would be continuous, severe pain from the time of rupture until it was surgically fixed. “When you have injury to the testicles, men often vomit.” Dr. Tasian testified that a man with a traumatic injury to his testicle would not be able to walk normally – “you sort of walk like a cowboy” – nor would you be able to sit comfortably. Even though Dr. Tasian could not feel a rupture, and Student #1 lacked the symptoms that would be associated with a ruptured testicle and trauma to a testicle, he recommended emergency exploratory surgery because of Student #1’s narrative. He advised Student #1 and his mother the risks and rewards of the exploratory surgery. Dr. Tasian mentioned that one of the reasons to have the surgery to fix a ruptured testicle is to reduce the risk of sterility. The concern about sterility was only applicable if there was, in fact, a ruptured testicle.

At 6:23 p.m., Dr. Tasian performed the exploratory surgery on Student #1. The surgery revealed that Student #1’s testicle was not ruptured. Dr. Tasian also found no evidence of any trauma to Student #1’s testicle. Dr. Tasian also testified that had he been given a different narrative of what happened on January 7, 2014 he would not have operated on Student #1.

At 9:35 p.m., Dr. Tasian discharged Student #1 from the hospital. He advised Student #1 to take it easy with minimal strenuous activity for 2 weeks. He never recommended that Student #1 use a wheelchair for mobility. Student #1 went to school the next day.

The Grand Jurors Findings:

1. While reasonable evidence existed to support the police officers’ belief that they should question Student #1 and his friends, it was understandable for Student #1 to believe he should not be stopped since he had not committed any criminal activity.
2. Police stopped and attempted to question Student #1 and his friend Student #2. Student #2 testified he was questioned by an officer without conflict or incident.
3. Student #1 physically resisted a police officer when the officer tried to stop and question Student #1.
4. Onlookers, including some of Student #1’s friends, witnessed the resistance and attempted to tell Student #1 not to resist the officers.
5. The testimony and video evidence conclusively demonstrated that it took officers 3 minutes and 49 seconds to place Student #1 into custody because he physically resisted their efforts.
6. The evidence does not support Student #1’s claim that a white female police officer, or any police officer, grabbed and squeezed his testicle two times during a search following his arrest. In fact, an African-American police officer testified that he was the officer who performed the searches of Student #1’s groin and denied using such force that would injure Student #1.
7. The medical evidence is conclusive that there was no trauma or rupture to Student #1’s testicle.

Man Sentenced For Trafficking 15 Year Old Girl

July 1, 2014

July 1, 2014: Today, the Honorable Robert Coleman sentenced 46 year old Robert Spence to 17-34 years in prison for trafficking a 15 year old girl into the sex trade. Judge Coleman previously convicted Spence Human Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation of Children, Interfering with the Custody of Children, Promoting Prostitution of a Minor, and Corrupting the Morals of a Minor charges during a bench trial in February, 2014.

The 15 year old victim met Spence after she ran away from home in the ninth grade. Meeting her on the street, Spence offered her a place to stay. Spence took her to his home and then coerced her into engaging in prostitution. He explained the rules: he would drive her to and from the street corners where she would work, he set her prices and hours, he collected all of her money and paid her nothing, she ate when he chose to feed her and she wore the clothes he bought for her. He set up crates in the corner of his bedroom for the victim and another 16-year-old girl to sleep on, both girls were working as prostitutes for Spence. He forced the 15-year-old victim to work on the streets from 8 pm to 7 am each night engaging in sex with men for $150 a trick. He threatened to kill her if she left or told anyone what they were doing. The victim testified that she was scared because Spence knew where her family lived and where she had previously attended school.

While incarcerated awaiting trial, Spence wrote a letter to a friend urging him to take over his “pimping” operation and run it while he gave directions from prison. Urging his friend not to “undermine his authority” with his “bitches,” Spence acknowledged the victim’s young age and the amount he made from each of the girls he was selling. The letter was recovered by a Corrections Officer before it left the prison, and it immediately turned it over to the Commonwealth.

Today, at sentencing, the defense requested a 30 month period of incarceration with credit for time served, the Commonwealth fought hard against that request instead asking for an aggravated range consecutive sentence. The Commonwealth argued multiple aggravating factors, including:
• Spence’s escalating violence against women over the past decade, ranging from an arrest for promoting the prostitution of children in New Jersey, to a conviction for domestic assault and stalking, to an arrest for rape, and now this conviction for trafficking a teenage girl;
• That he dehumanized the women he trafficks, as illustrated in his letter to his protégé where he describes targeting women already marginalized and invisible, including homeless young girls living in factories and eating from trash cans;
• That he attempted to train an apprentice trafficker from prison while awaiting trial for human trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors, in effect creating a new generation of human traffickers.

Condemning Spence for preying on societies most vulnerable, and noting his blatant disregard for the law as he attempted to run his trafficking ring from prison, Judge Coleman sentenced Spence to a maximum of 34 years in prison and remarked in court, “The facts of this case make my blood boil.”

Assistant District Attorney Rochelle Keyhan who prosecuted the case stated, “Judge Coleman clearly recognized Mr. Spence targeted and exploited runaway teenagers, who are one of the most vulnerable and invisible populations in our city. His sentence has removed a true predator from our streets.”


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