The Philadelphia DA's office went too easy on a gunman convicted of shooting and nearly killing a store owner, federal prosecutors asserted Thursday as they filed their own charges against the defendant.
Jovaun Patterson, 29, pleaded guilty to using an AK-47 rifle to shoot the store owner during an attempted robbery in May. Under the plea deal with city prosecutors, Patterson was sentenced to a minimum of three-and-a-half years in state prison. The sentence dismayed the victim, Mike Poeng, who was shot in the groin, left unable to work and wound up having to sell his store.
U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain, who has clashed with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, announced Thursday that Patterson faces federal robbery and weapons charges in the shooting, philly.com reported.
McSwain accused the DA's office of offering "sweetheart deals to violent defendants," saying Krasner's policies embolden potential criminals to think "they can literally get away with murder." McSwain, an appointee of Republican President Donald Trump, blamed Krasner's policies for an uptick in homicides in the city.
U.S. Attorney McSwain says the victim never saw justice and this is a perfect example of the danger in offering lenient deals to criminals.
"Violent crime is a top priority of the Department of Justice and my Office," said U.S. Attorney McSwain. "Prosecutors are supposed to advocate for victims, protect the community, and always seek justice. I can assure the citizens of Philadelphia that the prosecutors in my Office, working with our federal and state law enforcement partners, as well as with the Philadelphia police, will do everything in our power to do that in each and every case, including this one."
Krasner, a first-term Democrat who ran on a platform of progressive criminal justice reforms, said he welcomed the federal prosecution of Patterson but rejected blame for the increase in homicides.
"We are in the middle of an opioid epidemic," Krasner said at his own news conference. Criticizing McSwain's comments, he added: "It is highly inappropriate to frighten the people who live in Philadelphia."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.