Northwest Philly robbery-spree suspect held for trial after heated hearing

 Robbery-spree suspect Jamal Perkins, 20, is from the 5300 block of Newhall St. in Germantown. One robbery victim, a cab driver, was allegedly summoned there. (Image from Google Maps)

Robbery-spree suspect Jamal Perkins, 20, is from the 5300 block of Newhall St. in Germantown. One robbery victim, a cab driver, was allegedly summoned there. (Image from Google Maps)

For the second time in as many Family Court appearances, Jamal Perkins lashed out.

“I don’t want him representing me,” Perkins told Judge James Murray Lynn.

The defendant was referring to his public defender, Jeff Kilroy, during a preliminary hearing in connection to a series of armed robberies in East Falls, Southwest Germantown and Mt. Airy during a two-month span earlier this year.

“I told you this 1,000 times,” Perkins continued, hands shackled behind his back. “At the end of the day, I understand I’m fighting all these cases, but 15-to-30, I’m not playing all that.”

Victims testify

Perkins was alluding to the years involved in a plea deal offered by prosecutors on the robbery offenses. (Perkins claimed that he had originally agreed to the plea while sitting in a jail cell on the advice of his mother; after a debate of sorts, and an earlier hearing, prosecutors withdrew the offer.)

Already in custody for a prior incident, the 20-year-old from the 5300 block of Newhall St. in Germantown was charged in June with 11 counts of robbery, aggravated assault and related offenses.

On Thursday, seven witnesses testified about their experiences, some of them allegedly at the point of Perkins’ black semi-automatic pistol.

The first to testify was Kenneth Zimbleman who recounted a May encounter on the 3200 block of Cresson St. in East Falls when he was tackled from behind and ordered to hand over his possessions at gunpoint.

Struggling with an assailant he identified as Perkins, Zimbleman said that Samsung Galaxy cell phone fell out of his pocket.

Perkins allegedly grabbed and ran off with an accomplice who was standing nearby. Zimbleman said he started to give chase, but stopped when Perkins fired a shot in the air.

Lingering effects

The case was about more than property loss, according to the victims. One described it taking a toll “emotionally and psychologically.” There was other collateral damage.

In April, Germantown Cab Co. driver Derek Pearson was dispatched to the 5300 block of Newhall Street – not coincidentally, Perkins’ address – to pick up a female.

Though cabs aren’t usually dispatched to that block, he said the female voice eased the dispatcher’s fears. Upon arrival, a young man subsequently identified as Perkins allegedly approached the cab, asked who the driver was waiting for, walked into the house and returned with a handgun.

Ordering the driver to hand over money, Perkins was said to have audibly switched the safety off of the handgun and put the weapon to Pearson’s neck.

As Pearson described grabbing Perkins’ arm and pushing it into the ceiling of the cab, the judge had the defendant removed from the courtroom, due to a fixed gaze that the judge perceived as being as “being a threatening manner.” (He would be brought back in after several minutes).

While no physical injuries or cash loss resulted from his first encounter with Perkins, the victim said he was so shaken up by the encounter that he lost his job with the cab company.

A signed confession

While Perkins never spoke to the robberies directly while in court, he signed a confession several months ago.

During an extensive interview with Northwest Detectives in June, Perkins reportedly admitted to the crimes and accompanied the detectives on a ride-along throughout East Falls, Southwest Germantown and Mt. Airy.

According to the statement read by Det. William Knecht, Perkins described aspects of the crimes that corroborated much of the victims’ testimony on Thursday.

Asked by detectives why he committed the crimes, Perkins said, “I did it because I needed the money. I couldn’t get a job.”

Claiming he was under the influence of Percocets when the crimes were committed, Perkins appeared contrite in his statement to detectives.

“I’m sorry for everything I did,” he said. “My life is stressful and I didn’t mean any of it.”

Held for trial

Lynn ordered Perkins held for trial on aggravated assault, robbery, conspiracy and terroristic threats charges along with firearms offenses.

An additional four robbery charges filed against Perkins will be presented at a Nov. 21 preliminary hearing which includes a separate attempted-murder charge.

In custody at the Philadelphia Industrial Correction Center on $500,000 bail, Perkins has an extensive criminal record.

In July 2012, he was found in contempt of court, and sentenced to 5-to-10 days in custody.

Several months later, he was found guilty on narcotics charges; he was sentenced to a maximum of two years’ probation in November, according to court documents.

Perkins also took a guilty plea on other robbery-related offenses in September, and is facing sentencing on those charges in November.

Maintaining innocence

Asked for comment after the hearing, defense attorney Kilroy said Perkins asserts that he didn’t commit the crimes and wasn’t present for them, despite the signed confession.

“A guilty plea is as much about facts as it is the admission of guilt,” said Kilroy, “and I don’t believe my client is ready to do that.”

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