Two of the three men suspected of participating in armed robberies around Center City were out on bail during the holdups, court records show. And one had previously been arrested twice in four months this year for illegal gun possession and drug dealing.
That prompted District Attorney Larry Krasner on Monday to take a swipe at the city’s bail commissioners. During a news conference at his office, Krasner said the commissioners had denied his office’s requests to set bail in each of those cases at a prohibitively high amount — just short of $1 million — that could have been a barrier to the men being freed before trial. Instead, they paid thousands of dollars in bail and returned to the streets.
Krasner called it “shocking” and “astounding” that the men were able to get released before the brazen robberies.
“That is indicative of what we’ve been talking about for a very, very long time, which is how a cash bail system utterly fails us,” he said.
A court spokesperson declined to provide an immediate response to Krasner’s remarks.
The comments added fuel to an intense debate in Philadelphia and elsewhere around bail reform. Krasner’s critics have frequently accused him of being too lenient with bail requests for criminal defendants.
The DA, meanwhile, has derided the city’s cash bail system as ineffective, saying, among other things, that it can allow dangerous people with money to pay their way out of jail, while poor people often remain imprisoned to await trial even if they’re not a threat to public safety.
Krasner identified the robbery suspects as Terrence Mitchell, 22; Trevon Johnson, 19; and Shiyhiem Johnson, 19. Police said last week that the men were arrested at 17th and Locust Streets about an hour after they allegedly robbed a man and his fiancée in Point Breeze of a watch and cell phone.
When the men were pulled over, police said, they had been in a Lincoln MKZ that was used in another robbery a week before. In that case, police said two men got out of the Lincoln at 200 Mozart Place, then stole a man’s Rolex watch at gunpoint.
Shiyhiem Johnson is so far the only person facing charges in both robberies, according to court records. But police have said they are investigating potential links between a dozen cases in Center City dating back to September.
At Krasner’s Monday news conference, prosecutor Helen Park, assistant supervisor of the Gun Violence Task Force, said at least two of the robbery suspects — she did not say who — “are associated with several key players in street group violence” in Southwest Philadelphia. She declined to offer details except to say investigations into that violence, which includes homicides, and the robberies were ongoing.
Before his arrest last week, Mitchell had twice before been in custody this year. He was charged in January with carrying a gun without a license in Kingsessing, court records show. And he was charged in April with selling crack, marijuana, and amphetamines in the same neighborhood.
In both cases, Krasner said, prosecutors asked that Mitchell be held on $999,999 bail. But in the gun case, court records show, Mitchell’s bail was instead set at $25,000, and in the drug case, it was set at $75,000. In each instance, court records show, Mitchell was able to pay 10% of his bail to get out. There is no record of prosecutors filing motions to appeal either bail amount, as they are allowed to do.
Trevon Johnson was also arrested for illegally carrying four guns on the streets of Kingsessing in May, court records show. After his arrest, prosecutors also requested a bail of $999,999, Krasner said. It was instead set at $150,000. Johnson paid 10% of that to be freed within a week and a half, court records show. There again is no record of prosecutors appealing that decision, according to court records.
Following their arrests last week, all three robbery suspects are now in jail, court records show. Bail in each of the robbery cases was set at at least $500,000. And bail in Mitchell’s previous drug case was also increased to $625,000.
Attorneys for the three men could not be reached for immediate comment.