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Shot twice, witness testifies to support fine for intimidators

They called him up to speak last. City Council chambers were about half full. He was nervous. "My name is Maurice Ragland," he began. "Four years ago, someone shot me in the head twice."

They called him up to speak last. City Council chambers were about half full. He was nervous.

"My name is Maurice Ragland," he began. "Four years ago, someone shot me in the head twice."

Ragland, 45, was at Council on Wednesday for a public hearing on witness intimidation. It is something he knows about.

In September 2006, a drug dealer named Keith Davis shot him, leaving him for dead beneath a West Philadelphia streetlamp.

After recovering - one bullet scraped his skull; the other lodged in his neck - Ragland did something rare in Philadelphia: He testified.

During a March trial recounted in The Inquirer last week, Ragland described how Davis and his friends and family had tried to bribe and threaten him to keep quiet.

"Next time, they'll put more than two in your head," one of Davis' friends told him.

Davis got 25 to 50 years.

On Wednesday, Ragland testified at a Council hearing airing a proposal to fine people convicted of witness intimidation up to $2,000. The money would go into a fund to relocate witnesses who face threats.

Ragland, who has been sleeping in a Center City homeless shelter because no one knows him there, came forward to talk about the uncompromising realities victims face.

"People need to know," he said before the hearing.

At the time of the shooting, Ragland was a drug addict and a thief. He has since turned his life around. He attends drug rehab and works as a porter in a Lancaster Avenue restaurant. Monday was his birthday. His coworkers bought him a cake.

He's been planning on leaving Philadelphia to live with a relative as soon as his probation for a 2004 criminal-trespass conviction ends in October.

Others spoke first, including a woman who was relocated by the District Attorney's Office so she could testify against the man who raped her and four other women.

When it was Ragland's turn to speak, his arm began to shake. It's an effect of the shooting. Something that happens when he's nervous.

He told how Davis had called him from jail before the trial, threatening him. How the threats keep coming from others. How he's afraid for his mother, who lives in the neighborhood. How he believes it's only a matter of time before someone tries to kill him for having testified.

He said that he had been attending church, that his life was in God's hands. He said he was afraid.

"I'm worried about my life," he said.

"I don't have the answers on how to fix any of this," he continued. "But you all have to do something."

Councilman Bill Greenlee interrupted, thanking Ragland for his time. The committee voted to send the measure to Council for a vote and moved onto other issues.

Leland Kent, the Witness Relocation Coordinator for the District Attorney's Office who had also testified, stayed around.

He approached Ragland and shook his hand, telling him he was "inspired" by his testimony.

"We can offer you assistance," he told Ragland.

Ragland thanked him and excused himself, having to head to work. Kent said his office would work with Ragland's parole officer to get him transferred to another state. Then, if Ragland agrees not to return to his old neighborhood, victim services could pay for up to four months of Ragland's relocation expenses in a new city, so he can get on his feet, Kent said.

"He's a survivor and he had the courage to stand up," Kent said. "He should be commended for that."

Reached at work, Ragland was thrilled.

"This is good news," he said. "Tell the man I'll call him in the morning."