by Ralph Cipriano
PHILADELPHIA, PA — According to police, Anthony O’Connor, 30, of Jamison, PA, is a career burglar. His alleged specialty is breaking into 27 apartment buildings in Northeast Philadelphia and stealing change by busting open coin-operated laundry machines.
The cops will tell you that O’Connor has made off with as much as $800 during his laundromat capers, while leaving behind thousands of dollars in property damage.
For a guy the cops say is a career criminal with a drug problem, O’Connor, however, also happens to be incredibly lucky, thanks to his lawyer, and his “Uncle Larry” over at the D.A.’s office.
In court appearances over the past two years, prosecutors from the D.A.’s office have asked four different judges to drop 27 burglary cases against O’Connor, and make a total of 184 charges literally disappear from court records.
According to those records, the cases against O’Connor were either withdrawn or dismissed due to a lack of evidence or a lack of prosecution. And since all those burglary cases were tagged “LA,” for limited access, all those arrests and all those charges were in the process of being permanently expunged from O’Connor’s record.
How does an alleged career criminal with a drug habit beat the rap on 27 alleged burglaries, and get away scot-free, without even a blemish on his record? It has a lot to do with O’Connor’s lawyer, as well as how business is being conducted in the city these days under Progressive Larry Krasner’s ongoing crusade to “reform” the criminal justice system.
Let’s face it. Since he became D.A., Krasner has become a criminal’s best friend. He’s got a big heart for convicted killers; he’s also decriminalized prostitution, drug dealing, drug possession, and retail theft. Krasner has seemingly dedicated his life to emptying local jails. And now, it appears in the case of O’Connor, the D.A.’s office under Krasner has added burglary to the list of crimes that criminals should no longer be held accountable for.
Credit for Anthony O’Connor’s success in the courts must also go to his lawyer, Joseph Kevin Kelly, who apparently is a regular Clarence Darrow.
Kelly bills himself online as the “DUI lawyer.” On his website, it says that Kelly is known for his “ability to combine analytical, investigative, organizational, negotiation and courtroom litigation skills to prepare power defense for criminal cases.”
In online testimonials, clients refer to Kelly as a “pit bull in the courtroom” and the “best DUI lawyer in Philly.” Kelly is also among the many local defense lawyers smart enough to donate to fellow defense lawyer Krasner’s campaign for D.A. In 2017, records show, Kelly contributed $2,000 to Krasner’s campaign.
It appears to be money well spent. As one prominent defense lawyer told me shortly after the new reform D.A. got elected, “We can do business with Larry Krasner.” For a defense lawyer, instead of the longstanding tradition of having to deal with a D.A. who’s an adversary, with Krasner as D.A., it’s like dealing with a public defender.
Or as Krasner himself puts it, he’s a “public defender with power.” The power to open jail cells and make criminal charges disappear from court records.
Enter Anthony O’Connor. His lengthy rap sheet runs 18 pages and includes more than 40 arrests. In his first arrest, shortly after he had turned 19, he pleaded guilty in 2008 to possession of marijuana and was sentenced to a minimum of 30 days in jail. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to use and possession of drug paraphernalia, and received a minimum 12-month prison sentence.
In 2010, he pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to a minimum of one year to three years probation in addition to time served which amounted to a maximum of 23 months. In 2011, he pleaded guilty theft by unlawful taking, conspiracy, criminal use of a communication facility and criminal mischief; for those offenses he got 6 to 23 months in prison plus three years probation.
Anybody see a pattern here?
But the burglary cases against O’Connor have a tangled history. The cops arrested O’Connor on Feb. 4, 2017, after they pulled him over, as well as an accomplice, Marcus Fair, then 28, of Warrington, PA. An investigation led to the recovery of stolen property and clothing that the two suspects allegedly wore while committing break-ins at 22 different apartment buildings in Northeast Philly.
According to the cops, the burglars would break into apartment buildings and pry open locked change boxes on washers and driers. O’Connor and Fair would then swipe whatever coins were available, ranging from as much as $800 to as little as $20. According to the cops, the pair of burglars also stole electronics and tools from the apartment buildings.
At a preliminary hearing, the D.A.’s office submitted affidavits from apartment building owners stating that the two defendants didn’t have permission to enter the properties. The prosecutors also presented photographic evidence that allegedly showed the defendants inside the laundry room in one apartment building while a burglary was being committed.
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But attorneys for the suspects argued that the affidavits were incomplete and that the photographic evidence was inconclusive in terms of identifying their clients.
On March 13, 2017, Judge Karen Y. Simmons agreed, and dismissed all 22 cases. The judge ruled that prosecutors didn’t present enough evidence of a crime to warrant a trial, according to an April 11, 2017 story published in the Northeast Times by reporter William Kenny.
The D.A.’s office subsequently re-filed the burglary charges against O’Connor and Fair. O’Connor, according to the Northeast Times, was freed on $10,000 bail. Fair remained in prison in Centre County for violating probation in an unrelated drug case.
The charges on the first 22 burglary cases stemmed from a single arrest, on Feb 5, 2017, of both O’Connor and Fair. And similarly on Sept. 18, 2018, all 22 burglary cases against O’Connor were dismissed in a single court appearance before Judge Shanese I. Johnson.
Fair didn’t make it to trial. He died of an overdose. And so the D.A.’s office dismissed all charges against Fair stemming from the 22 burglaries. And, as was done with O’Connor, all of the charges against Fair were designated “limited access,” meaning they were in the process of being expunged from his record.
Meanwhile, according to the cops, O’Connor continued his burglary career.
A month before Judge Johnson dismissed all charges against O’Connor stemming from the first 22 alleged burglaries, on Aug. 10, 2018, O’Connor was arrested for two more burglaries. The charges included two counts each of burglary, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, possession of an instrument of crime and simple assault.
But on Dec. 7, 2018, before Judge Frank T. Brady, all those charges were withdrawn by the D.A.’s office.
So what did O’Connor do after all the burglary cases were dismissed against him? Why, of course he got arrested again. On Feb. 23, 2019 O’Connor was arrested and charged with burglary, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, theft by unlawful taking, and receiving stolen property. But on July 17, 2019, before Judge Thomas F. Gehret, all those charges were dismissed for a lack of evidence.
A month later, after a total of 25 burglary cases had been dropped against him, O’Connor got arrested again. On March 29, 2019, police charged O’Connor with burglary, conspiracy, criminal trespass, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, possession of an instrument of crime, and criminal mischief.
On Feb. 5, 2019, the maintenance manager for the Kentwood Apartments located on the 700 block of Sanford Street reported a white male with a dark beard forced the main front door open with a screwdriver, broke into coin operated laundry machines and stole $100 in change. O’Connor was arrested for the crime allegedly caught on surveillance camera.
But on July 18, 2019, Judge Gehret dismissed all those charges for lack of prosecution. On that same day, the judge also dismissed charges from a second burglary allegedly committed by O’Connor on March 29, 2019. The dismissed charges from the second incident included burglary, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, and possession of an instrument of crime.
On March 20, 2019, according to police records, a maintenance supervisor allegedly saw O’Connor in the laundry room of the Meadowview Apartment Complex on the 8100 block of Algon Avenue “breaking into the the coin operated washers and dryers.” When the maintenance supervisor asked what O’Connor was doing, he allegedly replied that he was “visiting and using the laundry.” The supervisor said he was calling the police, according to police records; the burglar allegedly responded that he “did not have to do that.”
The maintenance supervisor reported that nine coin operated washers and dryers were damaged and approximately $300 was missing. O’Connor was a suspect because of previous arrests for the “same type of incidents in the same geographic area,” and because he had just recently gotten out of jail. police records state. The cops showed a “double blind photo array to a witness who “positively identified” O’connor as the same male he saw in the laundry room.
In an interview, defense lawyer Kelly said the surveillance video in a recent burglary case against his client was “blurry” and that the cops and prosecutors “really couldn’t prove it was him.”
“There was no witnesses,” Kelly said. “They couldn’t prove it was him. They had a video but you could not see who it was.” The police, Kelly said, also didn’t present any fingerprints, or any other evidence that would have tied his client to the burglaries.
Kelly conceded that it was “very unusual” to get this many cases dismissed against a client. When asked to identify the people over at the D.A.’s office who had given him such outstanding cooperation, Kelly suffered a sudden case of amnesia and claimed unconvincingly that he “forgot the names.”
In defense of his client, Kelly said that all of the burglary cases against O’Connor were dismissed after he made restitution. According to Kelly, O’Connor paid about $3,000 to reimburse the vending companies. Officials at the Meadowview and Kentwood apartment buildings could not be reached for comment on whether they had also received restitution from O’Connor.
Kelly also noted that his client didn’t exactly get away scot-free. He “spent a lot of time in Bucks County,” Kelly said, a total of some 23 months in prison.
As far as getting all the charges expunged from court records,” Kelly said he would like to “take credit for that,” but it was something that the public defender was able to do. He expressed surprise that any records still existed that showed O’Connor getting arrested.
Besides dismissing 184 charges stemming from the 26 burglaries, on Sept. 25, 2018, Judge Charles Hayden also dismissed two counts of possession of a controlled substance stemming from a Feb. 17, 2018 arrest of O’Connor, because of a lack of prosecution.
Boy, the D.A.’s office sure has a big heart for criminals, doesn’t it? Of course, the transparent “reform” officials down at the D.A.’s office were too modest to talk about all the favors they’ve been doing lately for criminals like O’Connor.
As is their usual practice, Krasner and two of his spokespersons, Jane Roh and Cameron Kline, did not respond to requests for comment.
So, thanks to the D.A.’s office, Anthony O’Connor is out of jail, and with his newly scrubbed rap sheet, he’s free to start a new life.
“Hopefully, he’s keeping out of trouble,” his lawyer said.