Archive for February, 2017


February 8, 2017

PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 8, 2017) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced the creation of an enhanced Conviction Review Unit (CRU) to more effectively review claims of innocence from convicted offenders. The new unit, staffed by an independent four-person team, will be guided by new policies and protocols that have been reviewed by nationally recognized leaders in the field of wrongful convictions.

“Each and every day, the Assistant District Attorneys of this office go to court in order to do the right thing. The Conviction Review Unit is an extension of that drive and duty. This office is committed to justice and to ensuring that constitutional rights are upheld. However, the justice system is at times imperfect. Wrongful convictions undermine the integrity of the criminal justice system,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “I have the utmost belief that the men and women of this new unit will help increase the public’s faith in our justice system. It is my office’s fundamental goal to ensure the right result in every case.”

Over the past six months, the District Attorney and his senior team have been researching best practices from CRUs across the country, including Brooklyn, NY, Dallas, TX, and Cuyahoga County, OH, and consulting with outside experts in developing the policies and protocols of our CRU.

To be as effective and efficient as possible, each claim of actual innocence will undergo a preliminary review. If the unit believes the claim meets the initial criteria, they will begin a comprehensive, independent investigation. If the claim does not pass the preliminary review, the petitioner will be notified. The unit’s protocols are intended to generally govern the CRU’s approach to investigating credible claims of actual innocence. Each investigation will be conducted in an individualized manner according to the specific and unique requirements of each case.

A Dedicated, Independent CRU

The unit will now have a dedicated staff of four professionals who will independently conduct a fair and thorough investigation of each innocence claim. They will report to Chief of Staff/Chief Integrity Officer Kathleen Martin. District Attorney Williams will ultimately make the determination on each claim and decide the appropriate remedy.

“I have worked with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office on many occasions. When SEPTA learned of efforts to expand the Conviction Review Unit, we were happy to support it by detailing Detective Hedlin to the office,” said Thomas J. Nestel, III, Chief of SEPTA Transit Police. “The investigative experience Det. Hedlin brings to the unit is invaluable. Justice is served by protecting the innocent and the City as a whole is better for it.”

The following professionals will bring more than 70 years of legal and investigative experience to the new unit:

  • Kathleen Martin, Chief of Staff, General Counsel and Chief Integrity Officer – Martin has been with the DAO just over a year, after a brief time as an ADA in Pike County, PA. Prior to that, Martin spent twenty years as a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia defending hundreds of individuals accused of committing a wide range of crimes. Martin is a 1992 graduate of Temple University’s School of Law and a 1989 graduate of Villanova University.
  • ADA Elizabeth “B.J.” Graham-Rubin, Director of the Conviction Review Unit – Graham-Rubin is a graduate of Temple University’s School of Law and joined the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office in 1990. She has 25 years of experience in various units throughout the office’s Law and Trial Divisions. Most recently, Graham-Rubin served as Chief of the Civil Litigation Unit and, prior to that, was a member of the Post-Conviction Review Unit for ten years where she served as the Assistant Chief.
  • ADA Andrew Wellbrock, Assistant Director of the Conviction Review Unit – Wellbrock attended Temple University and Temple University’s School of Law. Wellbrock joined the office in 2008 and has prosecuted cases in numerous assignments. Previously, he was assigned to the Special Investigations Unit, investigating and prosecuting cases involving public corruption and police misconduct, and the Gun Violence Task Force, prosecuting the sources of illegal firearms and working on innovative solutions to reduce gun violence.
  • Detective Steve Hedlin – Hedlin has more than 20 years of service with Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). He was a patrol officer for the Department of Defense and a United States Marine. He also has completed criminal justice coursework at Temple University and has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Psychology from the University of Iowa.
  • Jillian Roth, Paralegal – Before joining the Conviction Review Unit, Roth was a paralegal in the Legislation and Policy Unit. Roth received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently pursuing her law degree at Temple University.

In addition to reviewing cases, the unit will make recommendations on ways the DAO can improve and adopt nationally-recognized best practices. It will also publish an annual report and work cooperatively with petitioners’ attorneys. To submit a claim, or to find more information about the new unit, please visit A copy the the new Conviction Review Protocol is available by emailing




February 2, 2017

Successful investigation the result of DEA partnership

PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 2, 2017) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced the results of a successful joint investigation with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Philadelphia Division that led to the arrest of three drug dealers and the confiscation of $3.3 million in heroin. Gheral Alavarez-Mercedes (DOB: 11/18/86), Zamary L. Roldan (DOB: 10/11/90) and Johel Pascal-Mateo (DOB: 11/24/90) have all been arrested and charged with Possession with the Intent to Deliver (Ungraded Felony) and Conspiracy (Ungraded Felony). If found guilty, each defendant could face approximately 60 years in prison.

“The more than 13 kilograms of heroin, which has a street value of $3.3 million dollars, that you see before you is thankfully no longer on the streets of Philadelphia,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “I would like to thank the men and women of the Philadelphia Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration for their partnership and the hard work of my office’s Dangerous Drug Offender Unit. Recently our city learned about the deaths of several individuals from ‘bad’ heroin, and even though we don’t yet know if the heroin that came from this bust was or was not laced with deadly chemicals, it still sends a clear message that Philadelphia’s law enforcement community is going to keep doing all it can to make our streets as safe as they can be.”

“The criminal allegations against these three defendants involve a significant amount of heroin,” said Gary Tuggle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Philadelphia Division. “Philadelphia County, as well as the Commonwealth at large, has experienced the loss of thousands of lives over the past few years due to fatal drug overdoses – the majority of which are the result of heroin. The seizure of this heroin, which was the result of the DEA’s partnership with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, will undoubtedly save lives across our region.”

On January 24, 2017, acting on information gathered from ongoing surveillance in the area of 7100 Bingham St., officers observed Gheral Alavarez-Mercedes enter and exit the property. Surveillance officers followed him to the area of Algon Ave. and Magee St. where he met with an unknown male. Officers observed Alavarez-Mercedes place a small white box in his car. After driving for a short period of time, Alavarez-Mercedes was stopped and officers found approximately three kilograms of heroin in the white box. Alavarez-Mercedes was taken into custody.

As Alavarez-Mercedes was being stopped, investigators at the property observed a female, later identified as Zamary L. Roldan, exiting the property with a diaper bag, hand bag, infant and a container. Roldan was stopped and voluntarily consented to having her car searched. Officers recovered four racks of glassine packets containing heroin, $5,000 and the container contained 18.4 pounds of heroin. Roldan was taken into custody and arrangements were made for family members to take possession of the infant.

Alavarez-Mercedes gave officers consent to search his residence on Bingham St. and they recovered .5 kilograms of heroin, packaging materials and scales. They also found in an upstairs bedroom ledger books, passports for Gheral Alavarez-Mercedes and Zamary L. Roldan, and 13 counterfeit $100 bills.

Investigators learned that Gheral Alavarez-Mercedes had made arrangements to meet with Johel Pascal-Mateo to distribute the three kilograms of heroin to Pascal-Mateo for transportation to New York City via the Geraldo Transport Service. Officers stopped Pascal-Mateo near the Geraldo Transport Service, arrested him and confiscated $485.