A would-be robber who shot and critically wounded a West Philadelphia beer deli owner in May was sentenced to 3½ to 10 years in state prison Thursday as part of a plea deal that was approved by prosecutors — and that left his victim stunned.
Under the agreement, the District Attorney's Office dropped attempted murder and other charges against the defendant, Jovaun Patterson, 29. The hearing took about two minutes before Common Pleas Court Judge Rayford Means and apparently happened without any prior notification to the victim or his family.
"No one called, no one sent me a letter," the deli owner, Mike Poeng, 50, said in an interview. In a text message, his nephew Rich Poeng, 32, called the plea agreement and sentence "pretty outrageous."
Patterson, of the 5400 block of Delancey Street in West Philadelphia, pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated assault, robbery, and possession of an instrument of crime.
His attorney, Philip Steinberg, said afterward that his client pleaded "to all the appropriate charges."
About 1:30 p.m. May 5, Patterson, armed with an AK-47, approached Mike Poeng outside his KCJ Inc. store at 54th and Spruce Streets while Poeng was washing his car. Patterson tried to push Poeng into his store in an attempt to rob it while Poeng's wife and sons were inside.
The store's outdoor surveillance video showed Patterson punching Poeng and the deli owner fighting back — even spraying his attacker with his water hose — before Patterson shot him in the right hip.
Poeng, who is of Chinese descent and who came to the United States in 1981 as a refugee from Cambodia's killing fields, said he spent about a month and a half hospitalized, then another month at a rehabilitation facility before being discharged in early August. He said he didn't understand why the District Attorney's Office would drop the attempted-murder charge.
"He changed my life forever," Poeng said. "I can't do anything. I can't take care of myself anymore. I have three kids. Who is going to support them? He's going to be in jail three to 10 years — that's it? I'll be handicapped the rest of my life. I can't do anything."
He said that because of his injuries, he has to spend much of his day in bed and can't walk or sit for long without his wife's assistance. (Poeng's nephew said his uncle has a wheelchair and may have to use it for the rest of his life.)
Ben Waxman, spokesperson for District Attorney Larry Krasner, said by email after the hearing that the withdrawal of the attempted-murder charge was "wholly appropriate as the video evidence depicted a struggle involving the gun prior to its discharge." He also said the sentence was "wholly appropriate."
The District Attorney's Office has been criticized for not notifying victims' family members of plea deals. Krasner this year set up a Crime Victims' Advisory Committee to help his office communicate with victims or their families.
In his statement, Waxman apologized about the fact that Poeng had not been informed about the plea hearing. "We strongly believe that every victim has a right to be heard," he wrote.