Accused goes free after victim recants

Posted: September 22, 2013

After Anthony Shelley had escaped death, with detectives at his bedside, he pointed to a photo of the man he said had shot him in the face on a freezing night in 2011.

And when his wounds healed, Shelley again pointed to Mikal Powell-Miller - a member of a rival Overbrook crew, he said - this time at a March 2011 preliminary hearing.

On Wednesday, Shelley testified at trial in a courtroom packed with Powell-Miller's friends and family, and he recanted. The man who shot him was not in the courtroom, he said.

With that new testimony, a jury on Friday found Powell-Miller not guilty, bringing what seemed to be a predictable end to a case marked by the cycles of intimidation and retaliatory violence that plague city neighborhoods, kill innocents, and cripple courts.

When Powell-Miller was arrested in Shelley's shooting in 2011, he already had a long rap sheet but had eluded lengthy prison terms when witnesses failed to testify in most of his cases.

Then, in summer 2011, a few months after Shelley testified at the preliminary hearing, bullets ripped through the walls and windows of his mother's home in Wynnefield. Nearly two dozen bullets narrowly missed Shelley's mother, younger sisters, and toddler brother inside. Police investigated the attack as an act of intimidation aimed to keep Shelley quiet, but with no witnesses, they were unable to make an arrest.

In October 2011, Shelley's brother, Daniel, 20, sought revenge for his brother's wounding and the attack on his home, police said. He pedaled up to an Overbrook corner and opened fire on two teens. He missed, but a bullet pierced the heart of Hafeezah Nurid-Din, killing the 31-year-old schoolteacher and mother of four, who was returning from a grocery store.

Witnesses changed their statements in that case, as well. Nevertheless, in April, Daniel Shelley pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and was sentenced to up to 45 years in prison.

Authorities hoped Anthony Shelley would help them put Powell-Miller in prison for the shooting they believed triggered the events that led to the shooting of Shelley's home and to Nurid-Din's killing.

In the days before trial, during a meeting with a prosecutor and detectives, Shelley - imprisoned in Delaware for a 2011 gunpoint robbery - again identified Powell-Miller as his attacker.

On Wednesday, a court officer escorted Shelley to the stand. For about five minutes, as the jurors and Powell-Miller were led into the courtroom, Shelley sat alone in front of rows crowded with Powell-Miller's friends and family, people from the neighborhood where his family lives. It was, apparently, enough time for him to make decision.

When Assistant District Attorney Brett Furber asked Shelley under oath whether he saw anyone in the courtroom who was there the night he was shot, Shelley said, "No."

Shelley's mother, Sharletta Ambey, and two of his sisters waited in a small anteroom while he testified.

"He is protecting us," one sister said of Shelly's testimony.

When Friday's verdict was read, Powell-Miller smiled.

One juror also smiled.

When court was dismissed, Powell-Miller's friends and family could be heard laughing in the halls.


Contact Mike Newall at 215-854-2759 or mnewall@phillynews.com.

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