Archive for the ‘Press Release’ Category

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE CONCLUDES AMTRAK INVESTIGATION

May 9, 2017

PHILADELPHIA (May 9, 2017) – The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office today released the following statement announcing the conclusion of its investigation into the May 12, 2015, Amtrak derailment:

The District Attorney’s Office has completed its investigation into the Amtrak derailment at the Frankford Junction on May 12, 2015, in which eight people were killed and two hundred others were injured, many seriously. We extend our sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives and everyone who was affected by this tragedy.

Two senior members of the Homicide Unit worked closely with Philadelphia Police and Amtrak officials, including experienced train engineers. Both Assistant District Attorneys (ADA) consulted with officials of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and thoroughly reviewed the NTSB report. They rode in the cab of a train along the route leading to the scene of the derailment. The team reviewed the audio tapes of what the engineer said and heard before the derailment, and reviewed the engineer’s cell phone, cell phone records, and cell site data. Finally, the two senior Homicide ADAs consulted with experts in train operation.

The evidence indicates that the derailment was caused by the engineer operating the train far in excess of the speed limit.

However, we cannot conclude that the evidence rises to the high level necessary to charge the engineer or anyone else with a criminal offense. We have no evidence that the engineer acted with criminal “intent” or criminal “knowledge” within the special meaning of those terms under Pennsylvania law for purposes of criminal charges. Nor do we believe there is sufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, criminal recklessness, which would be the only other basis for criminal liability. Pennsylvania law specially states that one acts with criminal recklessness when a person “consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk.” Based on the available information, we do not have evidence sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the engineer “consciously” disregarded the risk. We applied the law to the facts and reached this conclusion, which is specific to the criminal context. We of course offer no view on potential liability in other legal proceedings arising out of this incident.

###

Advertisements

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE CHARGES OFF-DUTY OFFICER SOTO AND ANNOUNCES GUILTY PLEA BY FORMER DETECTIVE DOVE

April 26, 2017

PHILADELPHIA (April 26, 2017) – The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office today released the following statements on the charging of Off-Duty Philadelphia Police Officer Adam Soto and the guilty plea to all charges by Former Detective Ronald Dove:

Commonwealth v. Adam Soto

“After a comprehensive investigation, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has charged Officer Adam Soto in the death of Daniel Dimitri,” said Kathleen Martin, First Assistant District Attorney. “This is a particularly egregious act, not only because it took place mid-morning on a well-traveled intersection, but because Officer Soto, who once took an oath to serve and protect, is charged with literally running down and killing one of his fellow citizens.”

Background: On January 31, 2017, the defendant, while off-duty, struck and killed 50 year old Daniel Dimitri as he attempted to cross Cottman and Algon Aves. Soto was driving over 80 miles per hour, and has been charged with Homicide by Vehicle (3rd Degree Felony) and Involuntary Manslaughter (1st Degree Misdemeanor).

Commonwealth v. Ronald Dove

“Former Det. Ronald Dove’s guilty plea to several felony and misdemeanor charges today sends a clear message that if you are a police officer and you break the law, you will be investigated and prosecuted for your crimes,” said Kathleen Martin, First Assistant District Attorney.

Background: Today, Former Det. Ronald Dove plead guilty to six charges: Hindering Apprehension (3rd Degree Felony), Conspiracy to Hinder Apprehension (3rd Degree Felony), Flight to Avoid Apprehension (3rd Degree Felony), Obstruction of Administration of Law (2nd Degree Misdemeanor), Unsworn Falsification (2nd Degree Misdemeanor), and Tampering with Evidence (2nd Degree Misdemeanor). He pled guilty to conduct that included taking his girlfriend to Rochester, New York; removing potential evidence; and lying to investigators. Judge Carolyn H. Nichols sentenced him to 30 days to 23 months in prison, followed by three years of probation.

###

STAFF INSPECTOR MICHAEL P. CRAM APPOINTED AS ACTING CHIEF OF COUNTY DETECTIVES FOR THE PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

April 10, 2017

Cram brings community, investigative, and more than 20 years of policing experience to the position

PHILADELPHIA (April 10, 2017) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced the appointment of Staff Inspector Michael P. Cram as the Acting Chief of County Detectives for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO).

Before joining the DAO, Cram was the Police Staff Inspector for the Audits and Inspection Division of the Philadelphia Police Department (March to April 2017), Police Captain for the 25th Philadelphia Police District (Feb. 2014 to March 2017), and Police Captain for the 26th Philadelphia Police District (March 2009 to Jan. 2014). While in these positions, Cram worked tirelessly to make the City of Philadelphia safer and improve the connection between the department and the community through social media and the creation new community groups and partnerships.

“Acting Chief Michael Cram, welcome to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, your years of leadership and community engagement, not to mention your military service, will be an enormous asset to the work we do each and every day here in the office,” said District Attorney R. Seth Williams. “I would also like to thank Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ross for allowing us to benefit from Inspector Cram’s leadership, and I applaud former Chief Detective Dr. Claude Thomas for his service. Dr. Thomas, it was a pleasure to work with you and I wish you all my best as you begin the next chapter in your professional career.”

Cram has a Master of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from the American Military University. He also has a Graduate Certificate of Achievement in Criminal Justice Education from the University of Virginia. Michael is a United States Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and is currently a Major in Temple University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps.

He has been recognized by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for his commitment of community orientated policing (2015) and by the Philadelphia City Council for community service (2011). He currently lives in the Bustleton section of the city with his family.

###

FOUR PUBLIC SERVANTS HONORED BY THE PHILADELPHIA COALITION FOR VICTIM ADVOCACY FOR THEIR SERVICE TO CRIME VICTIMS AND WITNESSES

April 6, 2017

Annual luncheon celebrates awardees during National Crime Victim’s Rights Week

PHILADELPHIA (April 6, 2017) – In celebration of National Crime Victim’s Rights Week, the Philadelphia Coalition for Victim Advocacy (PCVA) today honored four public servants at their annual luncheon and award ceremony. All of the honorees work in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO).

“On behalf of the Philadelphia Coalition for Victim Advocacy and the District Attorney’s Office, congratulations to these four outstanding professionals for making such a difference in the lives of so many victims and witnesses of crime,” said John Delaney, Deputy of the Trial Division for the DAO. “It’s fitting that we honor these men and women during National Crime Victim’s Rights Week because, without their hard work and passion, we would not be able to make Philadelphia a safer place to live, work, and raise a family.”

The awards and awardees included:

  • Catherine Bachrach Victim Advocate Award – Amanda Bee, Victim Witness Coordinator, DAO Homicide Unit is being honored for making significant contributions to the lives of crime victims. As a liaison between the DAO and the Office of the Attorney General, Amanda has become a victims’ champion and works tirelessly to empower victims who are being relocated due to intimidation.
  • Barbara McPherson Award/Police Personnel Award – Officer Yusuf Jackson, DAO Police Officer is being celebrated for his role as a volunteer, youth advocate, and dedicated Officer. In addition to being assigned to the DAO, he is a volunteer presenter for the DAO’s Bridge to the Future Project, helping youth and preventing crime.
  • Lynne Abraham Prosecutor Award – Branwen McNabb, Assistant District Attorney, DAO Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit (FVSAU) began working in the Unit in 2008. Since then she has made a name for herself as an advocate for the victims and witnesses of crime by successfully prosecuting several high profile cases. Ms. McNabb prosecuted Leon Watson, a youth football coach, who sexually abused five of the boys between the ages of eight and eleven years old, as well as Sumo Dukulah, an elementary school teacher, who was convicted of sexually abusing his daughter over the course of eight years.
  • Volunteer Award – Robert “Bob” Cavanaugh has served the victims and witnesses of crime during and after his professional career. Bob, who had a lengthy career in law enforcement, is being honored for his more than 15 years of support for the DAO’s Juvenile Division and for making each victim feel special. When Bob is not volunteering with the DAO, he volunteers at the Breast Feeding Resource Center.

PCVA began in 1980 as the Philadelphia Crime and the Elderly Coalition and was changed to Philadelphia Coalition for Victim Advocacy in 1983 to reflect its changing service population.

The annual luncheon is held during National Crime Victim’s Rights Week to honor those who have made significant contributions in addressing or advocating for the needs of crime victims. The mission of PCVA is to promote the rights of crime victims through systematic advocacy, education, and collaboration.

###

ELECTION FRAUD TASK FORCE OPENS INVESTIGATION INTO SPECIAL 197TH ELECTION

March 24, 2017

Task Force calls for submissions showing fraud

PHILADELPHIA (March 24, 2017) – The Election Fraud Task Force in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has launched an investigation into the Special Election in the 197th Legislative District. Philadelphians who have video, photographic, or eyewitness accounts of fraud at the polls should call 215-686-8724 or email the Task Force at justice@phila.gov.

“After each election, the Election Fraud Task Force reviews all of the calls that come into its hotline and reviews the reports and evidence collected in the field by the specially assigned Detectives and Assistant District Attorneys. We are continuing to review all of our evidence and encourage anyone who has information regarding voter fraud to contact the office,” said Kathleen E. Martin, First Assistant District Attorney. “Please send any video, photographic, or eyewitness accounts of fraud at the polls to justice@phila.gov or call the Task Force at 215-686-8724.”

On Election Day, the Task Force received approximately fifty calls to its hotline and responded to several dozen allegations of illegal activity at polling places across the 197th. Some of the issues the Task Force is investigating include the use and placement of candidate write-in stamps, electioneering inside the polling place, illegal voter assistance, and individuals writing on posted sample ballots.

In 2014, Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams created the Election Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute allegations of Election Day criminal activity. The Task Force continues to be part of the District Attorney’s Special Investigations Unit and is staffed by ADAs and detectives.

###

ELECTION FRAUD TASK FORCE READY FOR SPECIAL ELECTION IN THE 197TH

March 20, 2017

Hotline will take calls at 215-988-2399

PHILADELPHIA (March 20, 2017) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams reminds voters in the Pennsylvania’s 197th House District that the office’s Election Fraud Task Force is ready to respond to any problems that may arise at the polls. The Task Force’s hotline, staffed by Spanish speaking detectives and specially assigned Assistant District Attorneys (ADA), will be ready to help when the polls open at 7 a.m.

“Every election, no matter how small or large, citywide or just one district, is important. The Election Fraud Task Force will be ready on Tuesday,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “If you see voter fraud or a crime being committed, you should immediately call the Election Fraud Task Force so we can help ensure fairness at the polls.”

Philadelphians in the 197th PA House District can call the Election Fraud Task Force at 215-988-2399 if they see or experience problems during the special election. The Task Force will have Spanish-speaking detectives and ADAs deployed throughout the district’s seven wards.

The Election Fraud Task Force will coordinate its efforts with the City Commissioners and Philadelphia’s Central Election Court to respond to any election-related concerns. As always, if the need arises, the Task Force can enlist additional ADAs on Election Day to respond to emerging issues. Typically, the Task Force is asked to respond to allegations of illegal voting, candidate write-in issues, refusal of election boards to recognize poll watcher certificates, intimidation and illegal electioneering.

In 2014, Williams created the Election Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute allegations of Election Day criminal activity. The Task Force continues to be part of the District Attorney’s Special Investigations Unit and is staffed by ADAs and detectives. The office will also issue Special Election updates via its Twitter account while the polls are open.

###

KATHLEEN E. MARTIN NAMED ACTING FIRST ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY

March 16, 2017

PHILADELPHIA (March 16, 2017) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced the appointment of Kathleen E. Martin as the Office of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Acting First Assistant District Attorney. Martin will also continue as the office’s Chief of Staff, General Counsel and Chief Integrity Officer. The appointment is effective immediately.

“When I appointed Kathleen Martin to be my Chief of Staff, General Counsel and Chief Integrity Officer; it was part of a long-overdue staffing reform package. She has done an amazing job in this role and today I have appointed her to be the Acting First Assistant District Attorney for the remainder of my term,” said District Attorney R. Seth Williams. “Filling this key, and currently vacant, position will keep stability and continuity in the office and ensure that many of the advances she has been championing continue uninterrupted.”

Since joining the office in Nov. of 2015, Ms. Martin has:

  • Supervised the DAO’s Training, Technology and Special Projects Division in addition to overseeing the Finance, Human Resources, Law Enforcement, and Communications Offices;
  • Helped launch a new Conviction Review Unit with supporting policies and protocols for the review of innocence claims while coordinating with other agencies to create a more transparent and rigorous investigatory review process;
  • Participated in a variety of key management committees including Capital Case Review, Juvenile Life Without Parole Review, City Strategic Planning, Criminal Justice Advisory Board, and others; and
  • Served as General Counsel to the District Attorney on civil matters.

Prior to joining the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Ms. Martin enjoyed a 25-year career practicing law in the state and federal courts where she developed a reputation as a fierce litigator. In 2014 and 2015, Ms. Martin served as an ADA in Pike County, Pennsylvania where she represented the Commonwealth in a wide range of cases. During that time she assisted the Pennsylvania State Police and other law enforcement agencies during the month long manhunt for Eric Frein.

###

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY R. SETH WILLIAMS ANNOUNCES ENHANCED CONVICTION REVIEW UNIT TO INVESTIGATE AND REVIEW INNOCENCE CLAIMS

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 www.phila.gov/districtattorney/. A copy the the new Conviction Review Protocol is available by emailing cameron.kline@phila.gov.

###

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY R. SETH WILLIAMS ANNOUNCES $3.3 MILLION HEROIN BUST

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.

###

THIS NEW YEAR’S EVE CELEBRATE SAFELY, DON’T FIRE YOUR GUN IN THE AIR

December 28, 2016

PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 29, 2016) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross and Joe Jaskolka, whose life almost ended from celebratory gun fire, today reminded Philadelphians to celebrate safely and not fire their weapons in the air this New Year’s Eve.

“What goes up, must come down, so be responsible this New Year’s Eve and do not shoot your gun in the air as you ring in 2017,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “If you are caught firing your weapon into the air, you could be charged with Recklessly Endangering Another Person and receive several years in prison. If the bullet hits and hurts someone, you could be charged with Aggravated Assault, Attempted Murder or even Murder.”

On Dec. 31, 1998, Joe Jaskolka was struck in the head by a bullet that was fired in “celebration” while he was walking in South Philadelphia. Joe, who was only 11-years-old at the time, still has the bullet lodged in his head and the person who fired the gun has never been caught. As a result of his injury, Joe is paralyzed on the right side of his body and can’t use the left-side of his vocal chords. He is now 29-years-old and has undergone 33 surgeries to his brain and 21 surgeries to his eyes. The Jaskolka family estimates that insurers have paid more than $15 million dollars to cover the cost of his surgeries.

“Celebratory gunfire is never a celebration for the family of a loved one lost or for a person struck by this reckless gunfire on New Year’s Eve,” said Commissioner Richard Ross. “There is zero tolerance for this type of behavior and we will arrest those committing these types of acts; we want people to ring in the New Year in a responsible, fun, and safe manner.”

The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) received 132 reports of gunshots fired between 10 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2015 and 3 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2016. On an average, the PPD receives about ten reports of gunshots fired each night.

###