After deliberating for less than an hour, a jury found a West Philadelphia man guilty of illegally transporting and possessing firearms yesterday, including one that ended up in the hands of a cop-killer.
Stephen "Doe" Lashley, 33, was found guilty of illegally possessing and transporting a Taurus .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun and a Beretta .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol from South Carolina to Philadelphia between November 2006 and June 2007.
Authorities said the Taurus firearm was used by state parolee Daniel Giddings to kill Philadelphia Highway Patrol Sgt. Patrick McDonald in September 2008.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlene Fisk said there was no evidence linking Lashley to Giddings. She said the investigation of how the Tauras handgun ended up in Giddings' hands is ongoing.
The jury was not told that the firearm was used to kill McDonald until after it had returned its verdict.
U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson set sentencing for March 11. Lashley could potentially face 37 to 46 months under preliminary advisory-sentencing guidelines but Fisk said she planned to seek enhancements at sentencing.
McDonald's father, Larry, told reporters outside the federal courthouse that the verdict offered some relief that "there's justice," adding that "the only satisfaction I get is maybe the tide is turning."
Fisk said the jury rendered a "proper verdict," adding that "there are too many guns on the streets and [Lashley] is responsible for some of them."
Defense attorney Kenneth Edelin said the scourge of illegal guns on Philadelphia streets "cast a very long shadow" on the trial, which began Monday.
Earlier yesterday during closing arguments, Fisk said the evidence against Lashley was overwhelming.
Edelin said the case boiled down to two government witnesses - Jason Allen Mack and Faheem Berry - neither of whom was credible.
Mack pleaded guilty last January to making false statements in connection with acquiring and owning the Taurus handgun and another firearm and was sentenced in June in federal district court in South Carolina to three years behind bars.
Berry is a friend of Lashley's who moved from Philadelphia to Lancaster, S.C., in December 2005. (Berry pleaded guilty in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court in May 2001 to a drug-dealing charge and was sentenced to two years' probation, according to court records.)
Edelin said Mack and Berry were the only witnesses who testified that Lashley possessed the firearms in question.
In her rebuttal, Fisk said Mack and Berry were believable and that there was other evidence to support their testimony.
Specifically, she said that Lashley had incriminated himself when he told his girlfriend during a recorded phone call from jail on May 22 that he might face "between 37 and 44 months" behind bars, later adding: "I can work with three to four years, know what I'm saying? I always knew I would eventually have to do some years."
Jurors heard some of the conversation during the prosecutor's closing arguments.
Fisk asked jurors to ponder why Lashley would make that admission to his girlfriend. "A man who is willing to do three to four years in prison is a man who knows he is guilty," Fisk said.
She also reminded the jury that a Common Pleas Court warrant officer tried to serve an arrest warrant for a probation violation by Lashley in November 2007 and testified that he saw two empty plastic gun boxes in Lashley's bedroom and rounds of ammunition.
"Why would anybody have empty gun boxes in their bedroom unless they contained guns?" Fisk asked the jury.
Lashley, who has a 1999 felony narcotics conviction, did not testify in his own defense and Edelin did not present any witnesses on Lashley's behalf. He has been in federal custody since May.