A month after the videotaped police beating of three shooting suspects, emotions remain at a flash point.
Today, a judge's suggested one-day delay in a hearing on a pretrial motion by the lawyer for one of the suspects dissolved into a shouting match, with defense attorney D. Scott Perrine contending that prosecutors were stalling to keep his client in prison without bail - and attention away from the controversial video of his beating.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Diviny called Perrine's comments "absurd" and said the delay was needed so that Perrine's client, Pete Hopkins, could be present to affirm to the judge that he understands the possible conflicts caused by the fact that Perrine is awaiting trial on cocaine possession.
"It's just one day," interjected Municipal Court Judge Frank Palumbo.
Perrine interrupted the judge, saying that Hopkins, 19, of Kensington, was being held on $1 million bail and - without court relief - would stay in jail until his rescheduled July 17 preliminary hearing on charges of attempted murder in connection with a shooting in Feltonville.
Perrine accused Diviny of "staging a dog-and-pony show," which led Diviny to loudly interrupt Perrine to ask Palumbo to respond to what he called "an insult to this court."
After 20 minutes, Palumbo told the lawyers to return tomorrow, when Hopkins would be present after he was brought from Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia.
District Attorney Lynne Abraham rejected Perrine's comments: "We think that it constitutes professional misconduct when an attorney intentionally makes serious false allegations. If this misconduct persists, we will refer him to the disciplinary board."
At issue in today's hearing was Perrine's motion for a writ of habeas corpus, which lets a judge free a detainee determined to be illegally deprived of freedom.
Perrine argued that Hopkins was denied a preliminary hearing within the 10 days required by state law.
A preliminary hearing for Hopkins, Dwayne Dyches and Brian Hall began May 16 but was aborted. Three prosecution witnesses failed to appear, forcing postponement until July 17. Then, Municipal Court Judge Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde, suddenly and without explanation, recused herself before she could hear a defense motion for lower bail.
"It is unconscionable that Mr. Hopkins is expected to patiently sit in prison for 74 days while he waits for the court system to find a judge who can hear his case," Perrine's motion reads. "The nuances of judicial scheduling do not take precedence over the constitutional rights of any man or woman."
But Diviny said Perrine ignored the realities of "an urban docket." Diviny said Perrine cannot expect Hopkins to get priority over all other detainees awaiting trial.
Afterward, Perrine said it was "ridiculous" to believe he had not told Hopkins of his arrest for cocaine possession.
Perrine allegedly went to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on Oct. 24 to see a client. When officers searched his briefcase, they allegedly found a vial of cocaine.
Court records say Perrine told prison officials that the cocaine was surrendered to him by a client and he forgot it was in his briefcase.
Hopkins was arrested after 10 p.m. May 5 with Dyches, 24, and Hall, 23, both of North Philadelphia, after a two-mile chase that ended when Hall's 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis was forced to the shoulder in the 3700 block of North Second Street.
All three were charged with attempted murder, conspiracy and related counts involving a shooting at 10 p.m. on May 5 that wounded three people in a crowd at Fourth and Annsbury Streets in the Feltonville section of North Philadelphia.
Police allege that Hopkins was a shooter and that the trio drove from the site afterward. Police say a fourth, unidentified man fled on foot.
The Feltonville incident came a night after a nearby shooting that killed Andrew Coach, 20. Police said informants warned of a retaliation shooting that night.
It was also two days after the shooting death of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, a time when police were on high alert, looking for a fugitive bank robber alleged to have been involved in the killing.