IN DISPENSING WITH yet another witness-intimidation case Wednesday, a Philadelphia judge blasted the defendant - a young mother - for being part of what he called a culture of ignorance that has settled over the city's criminal-justice system.
"I think what you have done is horrendous," Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner told Toteyana Jones, 25, who pleaded guilty to witness intimidation and simple assault.
"Today's victim's family is tomorrow's defendant's family, because of this stupid, ignorant, don't-snitch culture."
Jones, an eighth-grade dropout who served about five months in jail before being released due to a high-risk pregnancy, was arrested for threatening a murder witness by phone in June 2011, and for going to the woman's home later that day with 10 others to beat her.
The female witness drew Jones' wrath after she told homicide detectives about the Sept. 25, 2010, murder of Tawayne Foster, 21, by Jones' brother, Donte, and the witness' ex-boyfriend, Brandon Johnson.
Donte Jones and Johnson - who have been convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison - gunned down Foster on Chester Avenue near 65th Street in Southwest Philadelphia because he had given the witness a ride home from a party, Assistant District Attorney Dennis McCloskey told Lerner.
Toteyana Jones could have been sentenced to 22 years in prison, but because she waived her right to a preliminary hearing, pleaded guilty and had no prior adult convictions, Lerner agreed with McCloskey's recommendation that she be sentenced to immediate parole of about 19 months followed by two years of probation.
"I'm very sorry, embarrassed for my actions," Jones said. "This situation involved my brother, so I wasn't thinking clearly . . . I'm not that kind of person."
Her sister, Taquana Blackwell, 19, got the same sentence earlier for participating in the attack, and the father of Jones' baby, William Cook, 25, is awaiting trial for his alleged part in the assault, McCloskey said.
In a chilling postscript, Jones' brother, Donte, 24, has been charged with a second murder since being arrested. He is now facing the death penalty for the June 22, 2011, stabbing death of a fellow inmate at the state prison in Camp Hill, Pa.