Two alleged members of an anti-gentrification anarchist group were ordered to stand trial Wednesday for participating in a riot May 1 by masked and black-garbed vandals who caused more than $100,000 in damage to new housing in North Philadelphia.
Geoffrey Suchocki, 45, of Doylestown, and Patricia Monahan, 28, of Rhawnhurst, were held on charges of causing a catastrophe, criminal mischief, riot, conspiracy, and possession of instruments of crime after a preliminary hearing before Municipal Court Judge Henry Lewandowski III.
Both were arrested after 9:15 p.m. May 1 as they ran from a group of irate residents whose new homes and parked cars had been vandalized – windows broken and splattered with paint – by 30 to 40 people wearing masks and dressed in black.
David Lugo testified that he was on the balcony of his fourth-floor unit at Phillips and Oxford Streets when his roommate screamed and he spotted the mob smashing windows and throwing paintballs.
As the mob ran east on Phillips toward American Street, Lugo said, members began stripping off their masks and black clothing, revealing casual clothing underneath.
Lugo said he identified Monahan by the blond hair he saw as she removed her mask after she allegedly damaged a parked car. He said Suchocki, who also removed his mask, was near her and tossed something aside near where paint had been splattered on a building.
Lugo said he went down to the street to join his neighbors and was stunned by what he called "total destruction" along Phillips Street.
Surveillance cameras were ripped from the walls of buildings, windows were broken, and car windows were smashed. Paint was sprayed and thrown everywhere, Lugo said, and the word leave was spray-painted on one wall.
A short time later, Lugo testified, he saw a Philadelphia police cruiser pulling onto the block, and spotted Monahan and Suchocki in the back seat.
Lugo said he identified the pair as part of the mob and gave a statement to the officer.
Suchocki and Monahan did not appear to react to any of the testimony during the hourlong hearing. Each is free on $5,000 bail.
The pair entered the courtroom looking anything but the disheveled alleged anarchists shown in their police mugshots.
Monahan wore a black dress complemented by bracelets and a pink beaded necklace and stylish eyeglasses, and her blond hair was freshly cut. Suchocki, his hair shorter than when he was arrested, wore a black-and-white shirt buttoned to the neck and black jeans.
Trevan Borum, Monahan's lawyer; and Michael Parlow, representing Suchocki, challenged Lugo's identification of their clients. Both also questioned whether Lugo could really say that their clients had been among the vandals.
Lugo, however, stuck by his testimony, telling Borum: "This was a group of people rioting, sir. They were set on the destruction of this neighborhood."
Assistant District Attorney Michael Manara also called three other witnesses.
Police Officer James Boone of the Highway Patrol testified that he and his partner, Christopher Culver, arrested Suchocki and Monahan after cutting off the fleeing pair with their cruiser in the 1300 block of North American Street. Both had ignored orders to stop, Boone said.
Boone said Monahan wore a drawstring backpack that contained a spray-paint respirator mask, pairs of gloves, a black shirt, a pair of pink and purple pants, and a car escape tool that lets a trapped person cut a seat belt and smash a window.
Police Detective Miguel Curet, of the East Detective Division, described a May 6 search of Suchocki's 2008 Chevrolet Silverado parked near the scene of the vandalism. Inside, Curet said, police found 10 flares, a can of spray paint with goggles, 11 rocks, and a stolen license plate.
Boone said he was stunned when he saw the damage in the neighborhood, which he said affected three city blocks: the 1500 block of North Palethorp Street, North Second, and Phillips.
Among the items left behind by the rioters, Boone said, was a black hat with the phrase "Star-F– Hipsters," and a canvas sign reading "Gentrification is death, revolt is life."
Amberlynn Kabana, the property manager for the six damaged buildings with 51 units, said that she could file insurance claims totaling $90,000, but that this would not cover the cost of cleanup and paint removal or the damage to cars on the street.
Borum and Parlow said after the hearing that they believed their clients would be cleared by surveillance video of the May 1 incident.