Taking a stand in the courtroom
CeaseFirePA is building a network of activists who are tired of seeing gun criminals walk free on their streets. By teaming up with Police and Prosecutors we're helping to give those people eyes and ears - and a voice - in the courtroom to make sure that judges know that we are counting them to enforce the law and to make sure that people who threaten our communities with illegal guns wind up where they belong - behind bars.
If you would like to represent your neighborhood in court, please send us an email.
Court of Common Pleas Judge Susan Schulman sentences Defendant Charles Wyatt to 5-10 years in prison for possession of an unlicensed 38 caliber handgun, with 2 years probation on assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Charles Wyatt was charged with shooting his friend/girlfriend in the wrist with a firearm inside of his apartment which the defense claimed to be “an accident.”
Wyatt, is no stranger to criminal activity with nineteen prior arrests and ten convictions. He is also a lifetime Megan’s law registrant and failed to register when he moved to Pennsylvania.
In her argument, Prosecutor Laurie Moore, emphasized Wyatt’s previous criminal activity. The prosecution also stated the Defendant has demonstrated an inability to be rehabilitated by his repeated arrests and convictions.
The defense tried to deflect the prosecution’s argument saying, “Wyatt moved to Philadelphia with the intentions of bettering himself.” Judge Schulman quickly responded by saying, “getting a gun is no way of doing so” and “the need to have a gun outweighed the Defendants common sense to stay out of trouble.”
Judge Schulman acknowledged CeaseFirePA as present in the court room. We applaud her for handing down a sentence of 5-10 years in state custody.
Court of Common Pleas Judge Susan Schulman sentenced Defendant Kashyism Manson to a total of 15-30 years in state prison on five counts of robbery at gunpoint.
Kashyism Manson along with two other males forced their way into a home occupied by five individuals getting ready for a friendly card game. Manson, armed with a loaded revolver, entered the house first, followed by his crew bearing large semiautomatic pistols. The three men ordered the occupants to the ground at gunpoint and demanded money. After taking the victims’ wallets and cellphones, Manson and his accomplices fled in a stolen SUV.
The 23 year old Defendant is no stranger to criminal behavior, as Prosecutor Andrei Govorov explained to Judge Schulman in his argument. In the past 12 years, Manson incurred 10 arrests, 1 adjudication and 3 convictions with offenses ranging from possession with intent to deliver to aggravated assault. Prosecutor Govorov also pointed out that the Defendant had 6 infractions while in jail and stated that “Mr. Manson is dangerous even behind bars.”
“He saw the man who held his life at the tip of his gun and began to cry, “Mr. Govorov said as he read testimony from one of the victims when he saw the Defendant in the courtroom at trial.
Mr. Govorov made a strong case that this wasn’t your typical gun point robbery since Manson was informed via text message that these 5 victims would be at this particular house, proving that this crime was premeditated and calculated. Considering Mr. Manson’s extensive record, the prosecution asked for a sentence of 25-50 years.
It should be noted that Judge Schulman recognized CeaseFirePA as present and took notice the effect crimes like these have on our neighborhoods stating, “I have grave concerns for our community”. Even though 15-30 years is not a light sentence by any means, with the Defendant’s prior record and history of resistance intervention CeaseFire feels the maximum sentence 25-50 years should have been imposed by Judge Schulman.
Court of Common Pleas Judge Rayford Means handed Defendant Jerrell Crump 4-8 years plus 2 years probation after a direct violation of his prior probation period.
The Defendant served 23 months following a possession with intent to deliver charge and was on 7 years probation. At the time, Judge Means’ sentence seemed light since the guidelines called for a standard range sentence of 48 months. Crump violated his probation when he was arrested for carrying a loaded Uzi type pistol in a bar while another gun was discovered in his vehicle.
Prosecutor Andrew Jenemann filed a motion for Judge Means to reconsider his previous sentence, making it clear that this is Mr. Crump’s second subsequent violation of his probation. Mr. Jenemann also stated that the Defendant’s crimes are only escalating and that a sentence of 3.5-10 years was more appropriate.
Judge Means, after listening to the prosecution's arguments, admitted that his initial sentence was wrong. He went on to say that he should not have deviated from the guidelines originally. CeaseFirePA applauds Judge Means for the acknowledgement of his mistake, and in the delivery of a fairer sentence.
Court of Common Pleas Judge Diana Anhalt sentenced defendant Tyree McLeod to 7-23 months plus credit for time already served under house. The sentence also requires at least another 6 months of house arrest with 3 years of mandatory probation.
McLeod was charged with possession of a handgun in his vehicle. The Defendant placed his hand on the gun while threatening a Philadelphia Water Department employee who was attempting to shut off the water at McLeod’s residence.
The defense asked Judge Anhalt to take in consideration that McLeod was compliant during his probation period, and had no violation of his house arrest. The defense also brought up Miller vs. Alabama in this case as well, which emphasizes that adolescents lack the sense of responsibility and have not yet developed their full moral capacities,even though the Defendant was 20 years of age at time of the charges. Prosecutor Matt Krouse responded by saying, “The defendant can’t be rewarded for following probation and house arrest.” Mr. Krouse continued to argue that McLeod’s previous history shows that he will commit crimes when not being watched and a sentence of 12-24 months would be more appropriate.
Judge Anhalt considered both arguments and seemed to be very lenient with her sentencing. McLeod was also ordered to enroll in a GED program where he cannot miss a single day of classes without Judge Anhalt’s approval. Any violation of probation will result in the Defendant being sent to State Prison.
CeaseFirePA feels it is important to note that the Tyree McLeod sentencing came directly after the Jonathan Scott sentencing. Scott was given 5-23 months in custody or 11-23 months house arrest pending that he finds a stable place to live. On the other hand, Tyree McLeod used his gun to threaten a life of an innocent city employee who was there doing his job. When you take the Defendant’s prior history into account the end result for Mcleoud should have been stiffer than the slap on the wrist provided by Judge Anhalt.
Judge Anhalt Sentences Man to 5-23 Months
Court of Common Pleas Judge Diana Anhalt gave the defendant Jonathan Scott a sentence of 5-23 months in custody, but would consider 11-23 months under house arrest if the defendant finds a steady place to live. Either sentence would require a mandatory 3 years probation.
Defendant Jonathan Scott, 19 at the time, was charged with concealing a handgun without a license between the seat and console of his vehicle. Mr. Scott did not comply with officers as he repeatedly reached for the handgun even after being instructed to remain still.
The defense asked Judge Anhalt to consider Miller vs Alabama which emphasizes that adolescents lack the sense of responsibility and have not yet developed their full moral capacities. Judge Anhalt quickly responded saying, “that is exactly why teens should not be carrying around guns” then proceeded to recognize CeaseFirePA as present in the courtroom.
Jonathan Scott did not have a previous history of violence. But Prosecutor Matt Krouse pointed out a possession of illegal substance charge and arguing that Mr. Scott has had multiple second chances and that he still doesn’t realize the consequences of his actions. Mr. Krouse requested that Judge Anhalt keep the sentence within guidelines of the charges due to the defendant not being able to “right the ship”.
Taking into consideration that this was the defendant's only adult conviction, Judge Anhalt handed down a fair sentence. We especially appreciate her stating the simple but critical truth “teens shouldn’t be carrying guns.”
Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Erdos sentenced defendant Baahir Clark to 11-23 months (including 6 months time served) in county prison with parole eligibility at 15 months and work-release eligibility.
Clark was convicted of two counts of violating the Uniform Forearms Act when it was discovered during a routine traffic stop that he and three other people in the car were in possession of guns illegally. Clark attempted to flee the scene on foot and was later apprehended by police in an abandoned house.
Philadelphia prosecutor Rob Frantz called 22nd police district officer Shannon Enz to testify during sentencing. Enz provided documentation revealing the defendant’s extensive record in terms of police contact. It was revealed that Clark had elicited police contact twenty two times in the last year and a half.
When shown photographs from Facebook, Enz identified one of the defendant’s friends as DeSean Kinsler who is in prison for previous shootings.
Frantz attempted to downplay the defendant’s prior record score of zero by highlighting the fact that Clark had been arrested thirteen times in his lifetime, an unusually high number for a twenty year old.
Judge Erdos seemed to be attempting to avoid leaning toward one side or the other while prefacing his sentence which was evidenced in the somewhat mitigating sentence. Clark was allowed to finish his courses at community college before he must turn himself in to serve his time on November 4th.
Court of Common Pleas Judge Charles Ehrlich gave 2 - 6 years incarceration (with time served) plus ten years probation to defendant Daniel Ramos for illegally purchasing a gun for his brother, who is ineligible to own a firearm under pennsylvania law.
Ramos had purchased five firearms since 1990, but by the time of his arrest, he no longer had possession of any of them. Three of the guns he claimed were stolen from him, though there are no records of him having ever reported that to the police. A fourth - the one that he bought for his brother Rafael Ramos - he initially claimed had been burglarized from Rafael's house, though it was later revealed that his brother had sold the gun on the streets. That gun was later drawn by a man named Juan Crespo against 25th district police officer Timothy Stephan.
Officer Stephan, who ended up having to use deadly force against Crespo, testified at the sentencing hearing. He told the court how his life had changed since that night, and the effect that taking the life of another human has had on him and on his family. He noted that the person he killed had family as well, and that they have lost a loved one as well because this gun had been sold onto the streets and placed in the hands of a criminal.
CeaseFirePA also testified about how illegal guns are damaging our communities and making them unsafe, and the need for stronger consequences for straw purchasers who would supply the criminals of philadelphia with easy access to firearms.
The Commonwealth requested 2-4 years plus 10 years probation. The defense asked for 9-23 months plus probation.
When delivering the sentence, Judge Ehrlich let Ramos know that he understood that aspects of Ramos' life had been difficult, but that it was no excuse. Judge Ehrlich emphatically told the court that gun crimes like what Philadelphia faces are "things that should never exist in a civilized city. This is not a battlefield, this is Philadelphia," and lamented that every night we see coverage of people caught in crossfires, of candlelight vigils and teddybears marking where someone had died. "This has to stop. People have to be held accountable. This case should never have happened… These things should never have happened."
Court of Common Pleas Judge Frank Palumbo sentenced defendant Nicholas Richards to 12-24 months incarceration with time served plus 10 years probation for the straw sale of firearms.
Since 1992, the defendant has purchased 13 guns for himself, none of which were still in his possession at the time of sentencing. Of those, two were straw purchases that he admitted to making, four had been recovered by police in illegal possession, and four are still entirely unaccounted for. Richards initially made claims that some of the guns were lost or stolen, and the rest he had sold legitimately to raise extra money.
CeaseFirePA was in the courtroom with a community volunteer, who spoke passionately to the court about her own stories of loss as a result of illegal guns.
The sentencing guidelines for Richard's convictions suggest 12-18 months, plus or minus 9 months. The Commonwealth sought an aggregate sentence of 2-4 years incarceration, followed by 7 years promoting probation. The defense argued for time served plus probation, citing the defendant's obligations as a father with four minor children at home.
Judge Palumbo decided on a sentence at the low end of the guideline spectrum, giving Richards 12-24 months incarceration minus time served (in this case, around 8 months) plus two consecutive 5 year periods of probation.
The sentence isn't impressive, but is markedly better than the sentence Judge Palumbo's gave last week to a straw purchaser. A message has to be sent to the people who would abuse the right and responsibilities of gun ownership.
Court of Common Pleas Judge Frank Palumbo handed down a fairly toothless sentence of 9-18 months incarceration with credit for the time served, then parole to 60 days of inpatient drug treatment to Michael Veneziale for straw purchasing two guns.
Veneziale is a long time drug collector who became addicted to heroin. To finance his drug habit, he turned to selling his weapons. He sold 14 guns to legitimate gun stores, but he also sold two of his guns directly to drug dealers. One of those buyers, Jose Torres, was later shot and killed by police in Kensington as Torres pointed a gun at them.
The Commonwealth asked for 2-4 years incarceration and 3 years probation (Veneziale's crimes predated the Brad Fox Law, which would require a minimum sentence of 5 years for any multiple-offending straw purchaser), and CeaseFirePA was present in the courtroom to show support. However, Judge Palumbo determined that Veneziale was not a criminal, but rather an addict who turned to crime to serve his addiction. On this thin distinction, Palumbo ruled that inpatient drug treatment would be more beneficial.
We are disappointed with the sentence. Drug addiction is terrible, but two illegal guns were put on the streets because of Veneziale's crimes. While he should get treatment, he should also be made to realize the gravity of what he has done - straw purchasers like Veneziale are the first step in the chain of supply that too often ends with innocents in the morgue.
Judge Brinkley gives 11 1/2 to 23 months plus probation and counseling, in hope that offender can still improve himself
Court of Common Pleas Judge Genece E. Brinkley sentenced defendant Rodney Chavis today to 11 and a half to 23 months in county jail and 10 years probation, after Chavis had pled guilty to and been convicted of carrying a firearm without a license, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, and possession of a firearm with an altered/obliterated serial number. Chavis has already spent 16 months in jail, which will count was time served toward his sentence.
The defense asked that the court count Chavis' 16 months of incarceration as a "time in" sentence, and that Chavis be given probation during which he would receive job counseling, anger management counseling, and drug dependency treatment.
The prosecution requested a sentence of three to six years incarceration, followed by probation, arguing that Chavis was not fit to return to society and urging the court to send a message to the community that gun crimes will not be tolerated.
After an exchange between the defense and prosecution about the propriety of the prosecution offering the testimony of a police officer who had known the defendant since childhood, Judge Brinkley declared that as long as the defense intended to have family members speak to Chavis' character, that the prosecution would be permitted to offer testimony that touched on similar themes, and that the prosecution's witness's status as a law enforcement officer did not preclude him from speaking.
CeaseFire's presence in the court was acknowledged, but the organization was not asked to provide testimony.
After hearing from the prosecution and defense, the court heard from Chavis himself, who said he understood his mistakes, and was trying to take responsibility and better himself.
Judge Brinkley gave Chavis 11 and a half months to 23 months in county jail followed by ten years probation, with credit for the 16 months already served. During his incarceration, Chavis will be required to undergo drug treatment, anger management treatment, vocational training, and employment advisement, and will have to pay court costs. The sentence was handed down in light of the defendant's age and Judge Brinkley's hope that he can still turn his life around, but with the warning that if he gets in trouble with the law again, or fails to meet any of the training or counseling requirements set for him, that the court reserves the right to resentence him more harshly and place him in state prison instead.
The sentence is fairly light, considering that this was not Chavis' first arrest for possessing a firearm illegally. It is admirable that Judge Brinkley hopes that Chavis will be able to improve himself in prison, and fair that she has reserved the right to change his sentence should he break trust with her. We only hope that Chavis makes the best of this opportunity, and that these second chances don't have a hidden, higher cost.
"Tell it to the Judge"
Every day, judges in Pennsylvania decide whether to give gun criminals jail time or let them off the hook with probation. It's up to us to make sure that judges treat gun crimes with the severity the deserve. Judges are elected in Pennsylvania, that means your voice matters. Sign the petition below to let Pennsylvania judges know you're paying attention and help us set a new standard for criminal justice in Pennsylvania.
Dear Pennsylvania Judges,
We all need to do our part to take a stand against gun violence. Whether or not a defendant ever pulled the trigger, if he or she carried, bought, or sold a gun illegally, that action put our communities at risk, and there should be consequences. Strong sentences now, can prevent tragedies later. Please take a stand with us by treating illegal gun sales and possession with the severity they deserve.
If you'd like to get involved with CeaseFirePA Court Watch, send us an email. The more people who stand with us, the more powerful our voice will be.