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U.S. attorney says Philly DA Larry Krasner’s ‘radical experiment has failed’ in announcing federal charges in 2 cases

McSwain contends that Krasner gives “sweetheart plea deals to violent defendants."

U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain, center, speaking about public safety in Philadelphia during a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Monday.
U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain, center, speaking about public safety in Philadelphia during a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Monday.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain on Monday announced federal charges against two Philadelphia men in gun-related cases — because, he said, District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office bungled their prosecutions.

McSwain also highlighted 10 other defendants he said received lenient treatment from Krasner in gun possession, drug, or assault cases and who later were charged with murder.

Speaking Monday at a news conference, McSwain said Krasner’s policies “create a culture of lawlessness" and “leave criminals emboldened.”

“The staggering homicide and shooting rates in Philadelphia are proof that the district attorney’s radical experiment has failed,” McSwain said.

It was the latest in a series of criticisms McSwain has leveled against Krasner, a progressive Democrat who took office in 2018 promising criminal justice reform. It also comes as President Donald Trump, who appointed McSwain and is scheduled to appear at a town hall meeting Tuesday in Philadelphia, has sought to make crime and violence in Democratic-led cities one of the pillars of his reelection campaign.

“Mass incarceration and death by incarceration have not made us safer," Jane Roh, Krasner’s spokesperson, said by email Monday. She contended that McSwain was “doing his boss’ bidding by telling fact-free tales about crime and public safety.”

After other broadsides from the U.S. attorney, Krasner has said McSwain is “grandstanding” with an eye on his own political future and misrepresents the cases he cites.

The battle between the top federal law enforcement official in the region and the city prosecutor broke into the open last year when McSwain filed federal charges against a man who pleaded guilty to and was sentenced on state charges for shooting a store owner with an AK-47.

In one of the new cases, McSwain said, Khalif Tuggle, 28, of West Philadelphia, has been indicted on federal carjacking and firearms charges in the shooting death of Tommy Petersen, 32, on a Hunting Park street.

In the other, John Allen Kane, 53, who previously served time in prison on manslaughter and murder convictions in two separate shooting deaths, has been federally charged with illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.

Kane’s federal public defenders did not immediately reply to a request for comment Monday. Tuggle doesn’t yet have an attorney in his federal case.

The other 10 defendants McSwain cited as having received lenient treatment in prior cases included Michael Banks, one of three men charged with murder in the August shooting death of 7-year-old Zamar Jones; Keith Garner, sentenced in August for a quadruple West Philadelphia murder; Timothy Sherfield, who faces a murder trial in the 2019 shooting death of a 23-year-old man in Wissinoming; and Maalik Jackson-Wallace, who was allowed to enter a court diversionary program for an illegal gun possession case, and later allegedly killed a 26-year-old man.

“We can draw a straight line from [Krasner’s] policies to the carnage on the streets,” McSwain said.

John Schmidt, acting special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Philadelphia Field Division, which investigated the two newly charged cases, said: “By holding these individuals accountable for their actions, I’m hoping to bring solace to the victims' families.”

In January 2017, Tuggle shot Petersen, who was in his car, then dragged him out, and rifled through Petersen’s pockets. Tuggle and an accomplice then drove away in Petersen’s car, leaving him dying on the street.

Despite evidence pointing to Tuggle as the shooter — surveillance video, fingerprints on a juice bottle, and identification cards left at the scene — Krasner’s office chose not to take him to trial on first- or second-degree murder charges, which carry a life sentence. Prosecutors instead entered into a plea deal with Tuggle to third-degree murder and related offenses.

The sentence was left up to Common Pleas Court Judge Barbara McDermott, who sentenced Tuggle to 13½ to 27 years in state prison. The victim’s family has criticized what they consider a generous plea deal and light sentence.

Roh said her office asked the judge for a sentence of 25 to 50 years behind bars for Tuggle, but declined to comment on why local prosecutors gave Tuggle a plea deal to third-degree murder. She said it would be inappropriate to comment on any case that’s now being prosecuted by another office.

Kane in January 2018 was pulled over by police after driving through a stop sign. Officers said they found a gun and drugs in his possession and arrested him.

Roh declined to comment on why the District Attorney’s Office later decided to drop the gun and drug charges against him.

Kane is now in federal custody on a federal gun-possession charge stemming from his 2018 arrest.