A Lansdowne man was sentenced yesterday to five months in federal prison for trying to persuade a man who had been the victim of a home-invasion robbery in Upper Darby in 2008 not to testify or appear in court against the perps.
Upon release, Curtis Branch, 22, must serve five months of house arrest with electronic monitoring and an additional 30 months of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner gave Branch until July 13 to surrender to U.S. marshals.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Marston said Branch, who had no prior criminal history, deserved prison because witness-tampering is a serious problem that impedes law enforcement.
Defense attorney Michael G. Paul had argued for probation, saying that his client was a "big baby" who had been "easily manipulated" by others and that he had not threatened the witness in any way.
Branch apologized for his actions but described himself as a "knucklehead" who "got caught up in something" from which he should have walked away at the outset.
Joyner said that Branch, who pleaded guilty to witness-tampering in March, should have thought about the implications of his criminal wrongdoing much sooner.
According to an arrest affidavit, the witness, who lived in Upper Darby and is identified only as "John Doe," was robbed on May 8, 2008, blindfolded and taken to a location in Philadelphia where he was held hostage for a time.
He was released unharmed and reported the incident to police.
He helped authorities set up a sting operation on May 14, 2008, at the same Upper Darby address where he had been victimized.
Three men subsequently were arrested in an attempted home-invasion robbery. One of the defendants, Byron Cassidy, was wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet at the time of his arrest, court papers said.
Doe later identified the three as the same men who had robbed him and taken him hostage.
A few days after the three were arrested, Doe told authorities that he had been approached by Branch and advised to "lay low" and to watch out for Cassidy. (Branch said that the witness had approached him initially and that they had worked together.)
On May 28, 2008, Branch met with Doe again and told him that a cousin of one of the arrested men wanted to pay him $5,000 not to show up in court.
Court papers said Branch then called an unidentified person in John Doe's presence advising the person that Doe could be paid not to appear.
The next day, Branch met with Doe again, and told Doe that the individuals who wanted to pay him not to show up in court were out of town and that if Doe did not show up, the case would be tossed out, court papers said.
Doe did show up in court, and a few months later Cassidy and four others were arrested by federal authorities for the Upper Darby home invasions of May 8 and 14, 2008, court papers said.