Witness intimidation arrests designed to send a message in Philly

Listen

Four men have been arrested in the latest chapter in Philadelphia’s war on witness intimidation.  

Charles Alexander, Troy Cooper, Aki Jones and Shaheed Williams are charged with attempted murder and witness intimidation. They’re accused of first trying to bribe a witness not to testify. When that didn’t work, they allegedly shot the witness four times on the day a trial was to begin. But the witness survived and agreed to testify against his assailants.

Special Agent Sam Rabadi of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms says making witnesses safe is his offices’ number one priority.

“The witness in this case was shot four times, almost died and why? Essentially because he was willing to come forward because he wanted to do something about the violence in his neighborhood, he was fed up and he was trying to do the right thing,” said Rabadi. “You know there really are no bad blocks in this city, as far as I’m concerned no bad neighborhoods. What you have are some very bad individuals who are holding those communities hostage.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams says he and other prosecutors are trying to end the “no snitching” culture infecting the city.

“Witness intimidation is a serious factor in us trying to prosecute cases here in Philadelphia,” Williams said. “Members of my homicide unit will tell you in almost every homicide case there is some threat of intimidation against witnesses.”

Williams says since 2011, witness intimidation was the lead charge in 2,669 Philadelphia cases.

He says it’s been very helpful using an investigative grand jury so witnesses can testify behind closed doors, keeping them safe before trial.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.