Philadelphia, PA; United States Attorney McSwain Delivers Remarks

Philadelphia, PA; United States Attorney McSwain Delivers Remarks on the Ongoing Public Safety Crisis in Philadelphia | USAO-EDPA

Philadelphia, Pa – On September 14, 2020, United States Attorney William M. McSwain convened a press conference to announce charges against Khalif Tuggle and John Allen Kane, both of Philadelphia.  The United States Attorney’s Office stepped in to bring federal charges in both cases after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office failed to handle the local criminal cases appropriately. U.S. Attorney McSwain also spoke about the ongoing escalation of violent crime in Philadelphia and its causes.  He highlighted several local cases in which the defendants received shockingly lenient plea deals from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, returned to the streets and then allegedly committed murder.   These cases highlight an undeniable pattern of cause and effect in which the application of the District Attorney’s Office’s misguided policies produce violence and tragedy.

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good morning.  I am here today to announce that my Office has unsealed two criminal indictments charging two individuals, Khalif Tuggle and John Allen Kane, with committing serious federal crimes on the streets of Philadelphia.  Both cases are part of my Office’s continuing efforts to fight the tidal wave of violent crime in the City that is the unfortunate result of local criminal justice policies that coddle violent criminals.  These policies create a culture of lawlessness; they leave criminals emboldened; and they have inevitable consequences – one of which is a murder rate in Philadelphia that is the highest it has been in nearly 15 years.

The two indictments announced today are the latest efforts by my Office to serve as a counterweight to this chaos.  First, Khalif Tuggle, age 28, has been charged in a three-count indictment with carjacking, use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and murder in the course of using a firearm, all stemming from his alleged robbery, carjacking, and brutal murder of Thomas Petersen on January 24, 2017.  Tuggle allegedly fired a shot into Mr. Petersen’s chest, dragged him out of the car, threw him on the road, robbed him, and left him for dead while Mr. Petersen was screaming in pain.  Tuggle fled the scene in Mr. Petersen’s car, and Mr. Petersen died at Temple University Hospital after two Philadelphia Police Officers rushed him there from the crime scene.  If convicted on each count, Tuggle faces a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Second, John Allen Kane, age 53, has been charged in a one-count Indictment with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon on January 17, 2018.  Kane allegedly possessed this firearm while on probation for committing his second homicide in Philadelphia.  If convicted, Kane faces a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.

I would like to thank our law enforcement partners whose investigative work made these indictments possible.  From the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which investigated both cases, I want to thank John Schmidt, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division, and the law enforcement agents who investigated the cases.  I also want to thank the Philadelphia Police Department for its assistance in both cases.  And thank you to Sal Astolfi, the Chief of the Violent Crime unit in my Office, and Assistant United States Attorneys Joseph Labar, Michael Miller, and Tom Zaleski, who are prosecuting these important cases.

Both the Tuggle and the Kane cases are prime examples of how local criminal justice policies benefit violent criminals and harm crime victims.  After Mr. Petersen was murdered in cold blood on January 24, 2017, the Philadelphia Police charged Tuggle with first degree murder, firearms offenses, theft, and receipt of stolen property, and he was held without bail until trial.  As Tuggle sat in jail awaiting trial for first degree murder, he caught a big break – in January 2018, there was a change in leadership in the District Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia: the Krasner administration took over.  This new administration subsequently agreed not to prosecute Tuggle for either first or second degree murder, thus eliminating the possibility that he would serve a life sentence for killing Mr. Petersen. Instead, the District Attorney’s Office permitted Tuggle to plead guilty to third degree murder, ostensibly because he agreed to cooperate with investigators to identify and prosecute his accomplice.

But the plea negotiations were a farce.  For one thing, the District Attorney’s Office agreed to drop the most serious charges without bothering to negotiate a “floor” for the sentence — a minimum term of years that Tuggle would be required to serve for murdering Mr. Petersen.  And incredibly, the District Attorney’s Office agreed to the deal without knowing whether the information Tuggle supposedly would provide would prove helpful, and without ensuring that Tuggle would actually identify his accomplice as promised.

In the end, he didn’t – and his accomplice remains on the loose.  In other words, Tuggle got a huge break for nothing. The judge sentenced Tuggle to 13.5-27 years for third degree murder, and he will be eligible for parole in the state system in approximately ten years.  That sentence is a miscarriage of justice.  It is a cruel slap in the face to Mr. Petersen’s family – including his mother, Linda, and his sister, Heather, who are with us today for this announcement  It is something that I am determined to fix.

If convicted on the federal charges, Tuggle faces the very real possibility of life in prison with no possibility of parole.

As for John Kane, as noted in publicly filed documents, the Philadelphia Police recovered a firearm in his possession after a traffic stop and placed him under arrest.  As a convicted felon, Kane was prohibited from possessing any firearms.  But he was not just any convicted felon – at the time of the traffic stop, he was on probation for committing his second homicide in Philadelphia.  But the District Attorney’s Office saw fit to voluntarily dismiss the charges against Kane on a technicality, and he walked free.  That is, until now: Kane has been arrested on the federal charge and is in federal custody.

Armed murderers cannot be permitted to walk the streets of Philadelphia in the name of criminal justice reform.  The staggering homicide and shooting rates in Philadelphia are proof that the District Attorney’s radical experiment has failed.  Homicides, shootings, and serious violent crime have all skyrocketed in 2020 – from already intolerable levels that existed in 2019 and 2018.  There have been 316 homicides since the beginning of the year – a 32% increase as compared to this time last year.  The violence has been pervasive and it is destroying the soul of the City.  In the last month alone, 48 people have been killed and hundreds have been shot. And the average age of the shooting victims is getting younger.  Tragically, the vast majority of the victims are racial minorities. I can’t say it any clearer: the District Attorney’s policies come at the expense of minority communities.

We can draw a straight line from these policies to the carnage on the streets.  My Office has examined the circumstances underlying many of the recent murder cases in the City and the inescapable conclusion is that a great number of these murders were made possible by the District Attorney’s Office’s willingness – indeed, its eagerness – to offer sweetheart plea deals to violent defendants. Deals that allowed those defendants to quickly get back out on the street and kill.

On this adjacent chart are 10 examples of this sad state of affairs:

  • In October 2018, Michael Banks was arrested and charged with multiple counts, including a felony gun charge for possessing an unlicensed firearm.  Banks also had prior convictions, and yet in February 2019, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office gave him a plea deal in which the felony gun charge was dismissed, and he received only 3-9 months of incarceration for a misdemeanor gun charge and immediately went back out on the street.  Banks now stands accused of murdering a seven year-old boy in West Philadelphia last month, who was playing with a toy on his family’s porch when two groups of men began firing upon one another and shot the boy in the head
  • In November 2017, Francisco Reyes was arrested and charged with multiple drug offenses.  Despite his prior convictions – which include aggravated assault, robbery, and multiple other prior drug offenses – Reyes was given a plea deal in July 2018 in which the felony drug charge was dismissed and he received probation.  Only two days after he pleaded guilty and received probation, on July 5, 2018, Reyes allegedly murdered a 25 year-old man in Kensington
  • In September 2018, Jerome Martin was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, which is a felony.  He had previously been convicted of felony drug dealing and possessing drug paraphernalia.  Somehow, Martin was given a plea deal in June 2019 in which he was sentenced to house arrest.  While on house arrest, in August 2019, he allegedly broke into a house and murdered a 23 year-old man, who is survived by many, including his newborn baby
  • In February 2018, Keith Garner was arrested and charged with simple assault.  Despite having multiple prior felony convictions, Garner was given a plea deal in March 2018 to probation.  In November 2018, Garner executed four people in a West Philadelphia basement, and has been convicted of all four murders
  • In March 2017, Timothy Sherfield was arrested and charged with numerous violent crimes, including two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of robbery, burglary, possession of an unlicensed firearm, and many additional misdemeanors.  In February 2018, he was given a plea deal in which the vast majority of these charges were dropped.  Sherfield received a minimum sentence of less than one year.  This enabled him to be out on the streets and murder a 23 year-old man in April 2019.  The victim was inside a mini market at the time that he was gunned down in cold blood
  • In May 2017, Tariq Gant was arrested and charged with a variety of violent crimes, including aggravated assault and firearm offenses.  But in February 2018, he was given a plea deal in which the vast majority of the charges were dropped.  Gant pleaded guilty to simple assault and resisting arrest, and received probation.  In September 2018, he allegedly murdered a 19 year-old young man in Germantown.  The victim is survived by his mother, who in addition to losing this son, also tragically lost another son who was gunned down earlier this year
  • In October 2017, Jose Lugo was arrested and charged with felony drug offenses.  Despite having previously been convicted of numerous felony drug crimes and carrying a firearm without a license, he was given a plea deal in September 2018 in which he was immediately released.  Just months later, in February 2019, Lugo allegedly murdered a 24 year-old man
  • In March 2018, Byron Taylor was arrested and charged with multiple offenses, including felony possession of an unlicensed firearm.  Despite his prior convictions, he was given a plea deal in May 2019 in which the felony gun charge was dismissed and he received probation.  Almost immediately, in July 2019, Taylor allegedly shot and killed a 35 year-old man in Germantown.
  • In January 2018, Rasheed Malcolm was arrested and charged with multiple offenses, including aggravated assault, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person.  Despite his prior felony drug distribution convictions, he was given a plea deal in which all of these charges were dropped, and he was permitted to plead guilty to the summary offense of disorderly conduct.  By the end of the year, in December 2018, Malcolm allegedly murdered a 27 year-old man in the 6200 block of Market Street

In June 2018, Maalik Jackson-Wallace was arrested and charged with multiple offenses, including felony possession of a firearm without a license.  The District Attorney’s Office then selected him to participate in its Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program (ARD) – a diversion program in which defendants can avoid a conviction if they comply with certain conditions.  This diversion allowed Jackson-Wallace to walk away free.  He was then arrested with a second illegal firearm while in the program, but the District Attorney’s Office did not move for him to be taken out of ARD at that time.  In June 2019, Jackson-Wallace allegedly murdered a 26 year-old man in the Frankford section of Philadelphia.

Each of these cases is its own separate tragedy, with terrible ramifications that extend in many directions.  And these ten cases only scratch the surface of the devastation that is being wrought by the District Attorney’s policies.  The cases are merely examples – there are many others like these, in which violent defendants who should not be on the street are committing murder or other violent crimes.  Furthermore, these are cases that have led to murder arrests.  Most homicides in the City do not even result in an arrest, so it is chilling to think of the number of unsolved murders that have likely been committed by violent criminals who do not belong on the street – and are only there because the District Attorney put them there.

As I have said before, everybody in Philadelphia deserves to live in a safe neighborhood – regardless of race or income level.  We won’t get there by treating violent criminals like they are victims, or by undermining law enforcement.  We must have the courage and the will to enforce the law – and to hold criminals accountable.  The future of our City depends upon it.  We must put the law-abiding residents of this City first.  Thank you.

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