Cousins guilty of raining gunshots on SEPTA bus

Posted: May 12, 2012

Last year at this time, cousins Karon and Raheen Patterson were out of school, living in North Philadelphia, and, as far as authorities were concerned, without prior contact with the city’s justice system.

On Friday each left court to begin serving 15- to 30-year prison terms after pleading guilty to strafing a SEPTA bus last June in an assault captured by eight onboard video cameras and later viewed by millions on television and the Internet.

Karon Patterson, 20, the man seen firing at the bus with a rifle, and Raheen, 22, standing next to him with a semiautomatic pistol, declined to comment before they were sentenced by Common Pleas Court Judge Willis W. Berry Jr.

Each pleaded guilty to 11 counts of aggravated assault, one count of attempted murder, conspiracy, reckless endangerment, 11 counts of simple assault and two firearms charges — all linked to the passengers put in danger as they rode the Route 47 bus late on the afternoon of June 18.

Prosecutors say the assault was ordered by a female passenger, Penny Chapman, 20, who phoned friends for a retaliatory strike against a male passenger who had reprimanded her for spanking her young son.

The charges to which the two men pleaded guilty could easily have put them in prison for life had they gone to trial and been found guilty. The 15- to 30-year terms were part of a plea deal between Assistant District Attorneys Morgan Model Vedejs and Ed Jaramillo, Karon Patterson’s lawyer, Perry DeMarco Jr., and Raheen’s attorney, Michael Graves.

Vedejs said the deal recognized the Pattersons’ willingness to avoid trial and accept responsibility for what they did — and the fact that, miraculously, no one was hurt by the nine shots that pierced the bus’ side.

“It’s important to consider that nobody was injured,” Vedejs added. “We were extremely lucky that no one was killed, but the reality is that they intended to hurt someone.”

DeMarco said the cousins’ plea agreements do not require them to testify at the June 6 trial of four codefendants including Chapman. DeMarco said the Pattersons’ cooperation was not needed because a third defendant, Angel Lecourt, 19, pleaded guilty April 26.

Neither Vedejs nor Jaramillo would comment on Lecourt’s guilty plea.

Court records show that Lecourt’s guilty plea was negotiated with the Prosecutor’s Office but do not elaborate on the terms of the plea deal. However, in describing the evidence against the Pattersons for Berry, Vedejs said that besides the dramatic video, she had statements made by Lecourt on July 2 and March 14.

According to testimony at a preliminary hearing in August, Lecourt is the uncle of Chapman’s son. In the video of the June 18 incident at Seventh Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, prosecutors say, Lecourt is the man who helps Chapman and her young son get off the bus by the side door.

Chapman allegedly points to the passenger who she said insulted her and tells Lecourt she wants him shot, prosecutors allege.

As Lecourt moves away from the side door, the video shows the Pattersons, armed and waiting. The video then shows panicking passengers rushing to the front of the bus, climbing atop the driver and huddling in stairwells as nine shots hit the bus. The video shows one shot shattering a window seconds after an elderly woman crouches down in her seat.

As dramatic as the video is, its existence was a matter of luck: the camera was on one of a few SEPTA buses so equipped as part of a pilot program.

Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or follow him on Twitter @JoeSlobo.

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