The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Thursday announced stringent federal charges in a case in which the District Attorney’s Office accepted a plea deal and pointed to it as an example of how Larry Krasner is being “too lenient” on violent criminals.
U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced a federal indictment against Jovaun Patterson, 30, of West Philadelphia for shooting and nearly killing a store owner during an attempted robbery last year.
McSwain also attacked Krasner’s progressive ideology, saying it has “terrible public consequences for public safety in Philadelphia,” and blamed the DA for the record high number of homicides the city had in 2018.
“It’s not a coincidence that Philadelphia saw a double-digit increase in homicides in 2018, while our nearby cities — and the nation as a whole — experienced significant decreases,” McSwain said. “The policies of the District Attorney’s Office are undoubtedly playing a large role in this tragedy and nobody should be surprised by it. I’m not.”
McSwain said the increase in homicides has disproportionately affected the African-American community, and pointed to charts to make his case. Of the 351 homicides last year, 276 victims were African Americans, marking the fifth year in a row the number of African Americans who were victims of homicide increased.
“The policies of the District Attorney’s Office are harming minority communities all across the city,” McSwain said. “And the people who have the right to be the most outraged by these policies are those in the African-American community and the Latino community. Everyone in the city — and I mean everyone — deserves to live in a safe city.”
Later in the day, Krasner called McSwain’s press conference a political stunt.
“It’s not science to say if homicides go up they were caused by the district attorney,” Krasner said. “What’s even less scientific is to put up a prepared board showing the levels of homicide going up for five consecutive years and to blame the district attorney who has been in office for one year.”
Krasner said McSwain “wanted a moment in the limelight and he wanted it for political reasons we’re going to find out about later — I can guarantee you that.”
Krasner, who campaigned as a reformer, took office at the beginning of 2017. McSwain, a former federal prosecutor, was appointed as U.S. Attorney by President Donald Trump in December 2017.
The two have butted heads in the past year, with McSwain accusing Krasner in December of “abdicating” his role by focusing on defendants.
McSwain accused Krasner of negligence in the Patterson case.
Patterson shot West Philadelphia store owner Mike Poeng, 50, with an AK-47 during an attempted robbery of Poeng’s store at 54th and Pine streets on May 5. Surveillance video shows Patterson approaching Poeng, the two struggling and Patterson shooting Poeng in the leg with the assault rifle. Poeng, who must use a wheelchair, attended the press conference Thursday.
Authorities originally charged Patterson with attempted murder, aggravated assault and robbery. The DA’s office negotiated a plea agreement Nov. 15 in which Patterson copped to aggravated assault and robbery and was sentenced to 3½ to 10 years in prison.
The DA’s office attempted to reverse the plea agreement later in November, saying the assistant district attorney assigned to the case did not get authorization from her supervisor to convey the plea offer or notify the victim of the plea agreement — a violation of the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act.
“What does that explanation tell us? It tells us that nobody in leadership at the District Attorney’s Office even knows what’s going on in plea negotiations or in the courtroom in significant violent crime matters,” McSwain said.
“Whether this plea deal was approved in advance or not, nobody in leadership at the District Attorney’s Office should be blaming the assistant district attorney,” McSwain continued. “The leader of the office is responsible for everything the office does or fails to do. They don’t blame the people who work for them.”
McSwain said Krasner is too lenient on violent criminals and sets bail too low, and his office was attempting to correct that in the Patterson case.
Patterson now faces federal charges of attempted robbery and carrying and discharging a firearm during an attempted robbery. If he is convicted of either charge, he could be sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison and fines of as much as $250,000.