PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia district attorney'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.
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."
Earlier this month, McSwain filed suit to stop a nonprofit from opening a first-in-the-nation supervised drug injection site to address the city's opioid problem. Krasner, who had visited a safe injection program in Vancouver, British Columbia, said McSwain was advocating the failed drug policies of the past and declared: "We are not going to prosecute people who are trying to stop people from dying."
McSwain has also criticized Philadelphia officials over their "sanctuary city" immigration policy.
In December, Krasner told The Associated Press that McSwain had adopted Trump's "shrill" style, adding: "I don't think it's constructive for him to throw rocks, but I'm also not going to be silent when he throws them."
Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com