Phone call trips up inmate on bail

Posted: January 12, 2014

PHILADELPHIA There's a sign that warns Philadelphia prison inmates that their calls to the outside world are recorded and may be monitored.

It's right above the phone. And when the call connects, a recorded voice repeats the warning.

Skeptic though he apparently is, Hutchinson Ivey now knows that they mean it.

Ivey's attempt to get his $5 million bail reduced evaporated Thursday when a prosecutor played for the judge a Nov. 20 telephone call to Ivey's mother and nephew. In it, he upbraided them for "not taking care of" a witness in a Nov. 5 alleged armed robbery in Southwest Philadelphia.

"This is exactly why we have the indicting grand jury," Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Ehrlich told Ivey. "Witnesses are scared, and this is exactly why." He revoked Ivey's bail.

Assistant District Attorney Kristen Stretz said she asked to listen to the audio recordings of Ivey's prison calls after his lawyer, Harvey A. Yanks, moved to reduce bail.

Stretz said Ivey told his mother and nephew that he had a car waiting outside a witness' house, and bemoaned their inaction.

"I guess you want me to stay in prison," Ivey said, according to Stretz.

"We're on it," assured Ivey's nephew, Stretz said.

Yanks could not be reached for comment.

Stretz said she knew of no efforts to follow through on Ivey's plan and no one had been charged.

Little could be learned about Ivey's alleged armed robbery. When she learned of the intimidation, Stretz said, the case was taken to the indicting grand jury, which has the power to recommend charges without witnesses having to appear in open court. She said she is no longer allowed to discuss the facts of the case until trial.

The use of indicting grand jury by Pennsylvania prosecutors was revived in August 2012 by the state Supreme Court, largely because of the pervasive problem of witness and victim intimidation in Philadelphia.

Indicting grand juries have been criticized by criminal defense lawyers, who say that in such cases they do not get the evidence against their client until 60 days before trial. Lawyers for defendants not charged through the grand jury get the evidence, or "discovery," after the preliminary hearing - usually within several weeks of arrest.

According to court records, Ivey, 35, was arrested Nov. 19 and with Aaron McCray, 22, was charged in an armed robbery at 6:50 p.m. Nov. 5 in the 5700 block of Woodland Avenue. Ivey allegedly held a gun at the victim's head while McCray grabbed $13 from the victim's hand.

Both men, from Southwest Philadelphia, remain in prison. Bail for McCray is $250,000.

Ivey was convicted of third-degree murder in 2001 and sentenced to five to 10 years in prison. Stretz said he had been released after serving his minimum sentence and was on seven years' probation.

As for Ivey's recorded prison phone call, it won't help.

In 2011, for example, Kensington drug dealer Joseph McGrath was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison, based in part on his prison calls to arrange the contract killing of a witness.

The killing never happened, but McGrath then called his nephew and an accomplice to try to buy the witness' silence with $1,500. McGrath's nephew is now serving four to 12 years in prison and his friend six to 20 years.


jslobodzian@phillynews.com

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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