A judge on Monday sentenced the 19-year-old woman who pleaded guilty to robbery charges stemming from a gunpoint mugging and rape last year near 48th and Springfield to 6-12 years in prison.
Tyshanek Presley was also sentenced to 10 years probation. During the sentencing an assistant district attorney read a letter from residents who live near where the crime took place that detailed the impact on the victims and the community (see the letter below). About a half-dozen residents were in the courtroom for the sentencing, along with about 20 members of Presley’s family.
Community members showing up in courtrooms is still rare in Philadelphia, where fear of retribution has made many city residents reluctant to get involved in criminal proceedings. Town watch groups may help change that.
Earlier this month members of the West Frankford Town Watch were in court during the sentencing of a man convicted of straw purchasing guns, one of which was recovered at the scene of a shooting. The judge in that case issued a strong sentence despite the defendant not having any previous criminal record.
Several members of the town watch group 48th Street Neighbors – a mix of people of different races, ages and genders - sat in court for Presley’s sentencing. Group organizer Patty Bulack said that their presence reminded the judge of the impact of crime on the community and that the judge referred to the community statement several times during sentencing.
Bulack wrote in an e-mail to group members after the sentencing:
“One important effect of our presence is that the family saw us, and we were no longer a faceless theoretical neighborhood, whose injury was of no consequence. I think they didn’t expect us to be there at all… In the end, their spokesperson addressed us, turning around to look at us, and apologized to us. This is so significant because their basic sense of anger and loss when she was sentenced was tempered by the realization that there had been REAL victims, represented by real people, in the courtroom.”
Bulack said that the group’s goal is not vengeance, but to to raise awareness that violent crimes leave lots of victims.
“The ongoing conversation now with some of us, is what to do with the sobering issues that remain – including how Tyshanek is now very much on our hearts, and wishing to find a way to send people/resources to her so obviously a victim herself in many ways,” she said. “I am hoping to find a way to actually reach out to her.”
Presley’s co-defendant in the case, Kareem Drayton, who is accused of raping one of the robbery victims, fired his attorney and withdrew his guilty plea in July.
Here is a transcript of the letter presented at the sentencing in the Presley case: