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Witness intimidation update

A Tacony man is sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to intimidating a prosecution witness at his brother's murder trial.

Those who remember last December's trial of two men for the racially tinged double murder in Tacony in 2007 will recall how fear and intimidation gripped the neighborhood and hindered investigation of the killings.

The trial ended with Gerald Drummond, 27, and Robert McDowell, 28, convicted of first-degree murder in the July 13, 2007 execution-style shootings of Damien Holloway, 27, a black landscaper, and his friend and worker Timothy Clark, 15, who was white. The Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury deadlocked on the death penalty and both were sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole.

The last loose end from that trial was tied Thursday when Michael Drummond, 24, Gerald's brother, pleaded guilty to witness-intimidation charges involving comments made to a prosecution witness in the halls of the city's Criminal Justice Center.

Under the plea bargain approved by Common Pleas Court Judge Daniel J. Anders, Drummond will serve 11-1/2 to 23 months in prison followed by a year's probation. Anders also ordered Drummond to stay away from any friends or relatives of the victims. Drummond has been held in lieu of $250,000 bail since his arrest Dec. 13 during the trial of his brother and McDowell.

Witness intimidation is a serious problem in Philadelphia's criminal courts and was a factor in the trial of Drummond and McDowell. One prosecution witness was severely beaten after he testified in the preliminary hearing for the two men. At one point during trial, Common Pleas Court Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes cleared the courtroom of spectators to enable another frightened witness to testify.

Both Gerald Drummond and McDowell have appealed their convictions. Drummond is at the state prison in Camp Hill, near Harrisburg, and McDowell at the state prison in Greene in Western Pennsylvania.