Three plead guilty in fatal robbery at Philadelphia mosque

Posted: July 30, 2010

Facing possible death penalties if convicted of first-degree murder, three men have pleaded guilty in exchange for varying prison terms in the April 13, 2008, robbery and shooting of a man entering a North Philadelphia mosque for morning prayer.

Jury selection was to have begun Monday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court for Walter White, Joel McCleary, and Steven Mack, all 22. Instead, one by one - Mack, then McCleary, and finally, on Thursday, White - pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in the shooting of Quadii Soulimani, as well as conspiracy and multiple robbery counts.

According to Assistant District Attorney Brian Zarallo, the prison terms are:

30 to 70 years for White, of West Philadelphia, who with McCleary fired the shots that killed Soulimani.

40 to 80 years for McCleary, of North Philadelphia.

171/2 to 35 years for Mack, of West Philadelphia, driver of the getaway car.

The terms will be formally approved in hearings during the next few months before Judge Shelley Robins New.

Soulimani, 33, of Deptford, was found dead outside Al-Aqsa Islamic Society Mosque at Germantown Avenue and Jefferson Street about 5:15 a.m. Police quickly determined that robbery, not religious differences, had been the motive and linked the three men through reports of a gold Buick sedan parked near the mosque before the shooting.

Police were already investigating the armed robbery, by men in a gold Buick, of a group of girls walking nearby at Eighth and Dauphin Streets, Zarallo said. That robbery, in which a gun was fired over the girls' heads, was included in the three plea agreements, he added.

Zarallo said the men had been following a taxi driver that morning. The cabbie parked in front of the mosque and went inside. The robbers drove around the block to approach the car from behind.

At that moment, Soulimani was at the door of the mosque, Zarallo said, and the robbers apparently mistook him for the cabbie. McCleary and White accosted him, a struggle ensued, and both shot Soulimani and fled.

Zarallo said the three were also suspects - but not charged - in two or three other armed robberies in the area.

Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or

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