Faulty paperwork prompted a Philadelphia judge to dismiss felony burglary charges against two men who were accused of breaking into almost two dozen Northeast apartment buildings and stealing change from coin-operated laundry machines.
Municipal Court Judge Karen Y. Simmons cited lack of evidence on March 13 when she dismissed the cases against Marcus Fair, 28, of the 1000 block of Buggy Whip Drive in Warminster, and Anthony O’Connor, 27, of the 12000 block of Pandrail Place in Somerton, court records show.
According to Fair’s defense attorney, Eileen Hurley, the court determined that the prosecutor failed to present sufficient evidence that the defendants had no permission to enter the buildings.
Hurley, a former assistant district attorney in the city, said that historically a prosecutor would call a property owner or renter into court to testify in support of a burglary case. But several years ago, the state relaxed its live testimony requirements and began to allow prosecutors to submit “ownership non-permission forms” to demonstrate for the purposes of a preliminary hearing that a defendant did not have permission to enter the property in question.
In this case, there were 22 burglary charges filed against Fair and O’Connor. So the District Attorney’s Office would have had to submit 22 forms. According to Hurley, the judge found that some of the forms offered by the prosecutor were incomplete or missing altogether.
Investigators “never got the owners’ statements, so they couldn’t prove that the crimes were committed,” Hurley said.
During the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor also submitted video evidence purportedly showing the defendants inside the apartment buildings carrying backpacks to and from the vandalized laundry rooms. But none of the videos showed the defendants’ faces, Hurley said, adding that the actual theft of the laundry money did not appear on the tapes.
Simmons also dismissed charges of trespassing, mischief, conspiracy and theft. The District Attorney’s Office may re-charge the defendants with the same offenses, which would prompt a new preliminary hearing. But no charges had been filed as of Tuesday.
The suspected burglaries occurred throughout the 2nd, 7th and 8th police districts in the Northeast between Nov. 28 and Feb. 1. ••