A West Philadelphia man who was acquitted of murder in the 2019 shooting death of a city police inspector’s son but remained behind bars on an unrelated charge was expected to be released Wednesday after a judge sentenced him to 12 months’ probation.
Tyquan Atkinson, 23, was found not guilty in April of fatally shooting 20-year-old Nicholas Flacco, son of Chief Inspector Christopher Flacco, during a brawl at a Phillies tailgate gathering in FDR Park. The month before the verdict in the murder case, Atkinson was convicted of having a knife in his jail cell while awaiting trial.
At a sentencing hearing Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Jeff Lindy asked a judge to sentence Atkinson to one to three years in jail on the knife charge. He said the knife, along with two phones found in Atkinson’s cell that contained “horrible” pictures of him holding guns, spoke to his character.
“I’m not saying this makes the defendant Charles Manson,” Lindy told Common Pleas Court Judge George Twardy, “but one to three years is needed for someone who has not learned anything.”
Defense attorney Evan Hughes suggested that the DA’s Office was seeking unduly harsh punishment because it lost the high-profile murder case. He noted that Atkinson had already been jailed for three years without bail while awaiting the murder trial, and had served 90 days of solitary confinement for the knife infraction. Hughes called the request for additional jail time “payback” and “sour grapes.” Most defendants in similar cases, he said, are sentenced to probation.
When asked if he had anything to say before sentencing, Atkinson responded in a soft voice: “I’m ready to go home. I miss my family.”
In sentencing Atkinson, Twardy warned him that if he did not comply with the terms of his probation, he would be sent back to jail. In addition to a year’s probation, the judge ordered Atkinson to take 40 hours of anger management training.
Outside court, more than a dozen of Atkinson’s relatives and supporters celebrated the ruling.
“I’m overjoyed, it’s a long time coming,” his mother, Stacy Atkinson, said. “He didn’t deserve the sentence that the commonwealth was trying to give him. I finally feel like there’s some type of justice today, after three long years.”
Asa Khalif, a leader in a coalition of supporters who had been calling for Atkinson’s release since his acquittal on murder charges, said prosecutors had overreached in seeking jail time in the knife case.
“In my opinion that was because of retaliation because Tyquan Atkinson was found not guilty on the first case,” Khalif said.