Philadelphia judge resentences man in wounding of children

Posted: August 19, 2012

Facing a courtroom packed with police brass and about 70 Southwest Philadelphia residents, a Philadelphia judge on Friday resentenced Kevin Pickard to 17 to 34 years in prison for the 2010 ambush shooting of a rival in the drug trade that wounded two young children playing in front of their home.

Common Pleas Court Judge Lisette Shirdan-Harris' resentencing hearing was held on a motion by Assistant District Attorney Bill Davis and followed a week of public criticism about the minimum 5- to 10-year term she originally imposed on Aug. 10.

Shirdan-Harris listened quietly as Davis and defense lawyer W. Fred Harrison Jr. debated the need for a resentencing. But she did not respond to them or refer to the overflow crowd before her.

The judge simply restated the factors justifying her new sentence under state sentencing guidelines - mostly, the recklessness of opening fire outside on the hot summer Saturday afternoon of Sept. 18, 2010.

After the hearing, Davis seemed stunned by the judge's reversal: "I am thankful that the court reconsidered its decision. And I'm grateful - it's humbling - to see this community support."

Moments earlier, Davis had turned and asked more than 40 neighborhood residents to stand as he read their names aloud in what he called a courageous statement that "they are sick of crime."

The sentence reversal pleased others, too. "I am much happier today," said Detective Matt Farley of the Southwest Detective Division, lead investigator on the shootings. "I hope this fosters more cooperation from the community."

Neighbors poured from the courtroom, congratulating Davis and police officials and officers gathered in the hall.

Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel, who supervises police in the city's south, congratulated the neighbors in return and told them they had the power to change things: "We have a response here that can change the dynamics of the community."

CeaseFirePA's Max Nacheman, who helped organize attendance at Friday's hearing as part of its "court watch" initiative, said he hoped to encourage similar turnouts across the city.

"If a judge doesn't know about a community engaging on this issue, the judge is missing a whole factor in sentencing," Nacheman added.

In June, a jury found Pickard guilty of three counts of aggravated assault and a weapons charge. The jury found that Pickard waited for his quarry, rival Marquis Wesley, then 19, to leave a cellphone store at 67th Street and Woodland Avenue. As Wesley walked outside, the jury found, Pickard fired six shots from a .45-caliber handgun.

One bullet struck Wesley, severing an artery in his leg and nearly killing him. Others hit two brothers playing on the street. Deshaown Brown, 2, was hit in the groin and Joseph Brown, 8, in the buttocks. Both were hospitalized for weeks - Deshaown had to learn how to walk again - and spent more weeks in rehabilitation.

On Aug. 10, Shirdan-Harris sentenced Pickard to the mandatory minimum five to 10 years in prison for each victim - but ordered him to serve the sentences concurrently.

Police, who had to overcome deep-seated fear among residents of the neighborhood where the shooting occurred, were outraged.

So was Davis, who later called the sentence "ridiculous" and said it was like telling Anetta Johns, mother of the two wounded children, that "her children did not count."

On Friday, Davis reprised arguments he had made a week earlier, telling the judge Pickard should be sentenced to 321/2 to 65 years for the shootings.

Davis said Pickard could not be rehabilitated and noted that he turned and laughed at his family after the original minimum sentence was read.

"He's already said that once he gets out, it [his feud with drug rivals] will be back on again," Davis said.

Harrison urged Shirdan-Harris to stick with her original sentence, arguing that Pickard maintained he was mistakenly identified as the shooter.

"Nothing has changed since Aug. 10, nothing in Philadelphia has changed, and nothing will change tomorrow," Harrison said. "And nobody is trying to justify the fact that three people were shot on this street."

Pickard told the judge he was innocent. He glared at Davis and called the prosecutor a "liar who is trying to make this personal."

Pickard also criticized those attending the hearing, asking where they were when he was trying to work with local young people organizing basketball leagues.

"They're making a mockery of the courtroom," Pickard said. "This is ridiculous."


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

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