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By Joseph A. Slobodzian
Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA - A year ago, Donyea Phillips was 16, a runaway and homeless, squatting with a cousin in an East Frankford rooming house and selling crack cocaine to make ends meet.

Yesterday, Phillips was assured of room and board for the next 25 to 50 years - his sentence for shooting and wounding two Philadelphia drug officers serving a search warrant at the house.
Phillips, who pleaded guilty in July to two counts of attempted murder and related charges, apologized to Officers Christopher Reed and Stephen Holts. Phillips insisted to Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn B. Bronson that he did not know police were trying to come through the door when he blindly fired through a window Nov. 13.
"I was afraid for my life," Phillips told Bronson, adding: "All I'm just asking is not to lock me up and throw away the key, because I'm changed."
The prison term drew gasps from some of the dozen relatives in court to support Phillips. The prison term was above the 5- to 10-year minimum recommended under state sentencing guidelines. It was also less than the 321/2 to 65 years requested by Assistant District Attorney Namratha Ravikant.
"I think this sentence was clearly excessive," said defense attorney James A. Lammendola. Lammendola said he would file a motion asking Bronson to reconsider the sentence.
Explaining his sentence, Bronson credited Phillips' acceptance of responsibility by pleading guilty and acknowledged his grim upbringing: "You had a horribly deprived childhood, there's no doubt about that."
Kirk Heilbrun, a forensic psychologist hired by Lammendola, testified that Phillips was the oldest of six children. Heilbrun said Phillips experienced mental and physical abuse by his parents and was largely responsible for caring for his siblings.
"He has a history of fighting a lot, possibly because that's what he learned at home," Heilbrun said.
As Heilbrun testified, Phillips' father, Willie James Taylor, stood up and walked out of the courtroom. Phillips' mother, Josette Phillips, remained behind until the hearing ended and then left.
Phillips did not look at either parent.
Bronson said Phillips' background did not excuse the fact that he was squatting in a house, selling crack cocaine, and spending $100 a day for marijuana.
"Sadly, other people have been in similar situations, but they don't hole themselves up in a crack house and fire a gun at police officers," Bronson said.
Phillips was arrested the night of Nov. 13 after several hours of stalemate that began when more than a dozen police officers raided the house, in the 2000 block of Orthodox Street.
According to earlier court testimony, a police sergeant knocked on the door, identified himself, and said he had a search warrant. Another officer then banged the door with a battering ram.
Inside, he later told police, Phillips grabbed a semiautomatic pistol he bought a few days earlier on the street for $300 and blindly sprayed at least eight shots into the street through a window.
Reed, 32, a 12-year-veteran officer, was shot through the left thigh. He testified yesterday that the wound became infected and that he underwent six surgeries. After two weeks in the hospital, Reed said, he was sent home but was restricted to bed for two months. He returned to active duty May 15.
Holts, 40, a 13-year department veteran, said a bullet fragment hit his right hip and tore away a two-inch piece of flesh that could not be closed with sutures. He returned to duty in February.
Both officers said they were pleased with the sentence.
"I wouldn't want anyone else to go through something like this," said Reed. "I know it will be with me until the day I get buried."
"It was an awesome experience - and I hope I don't experience anything like that again," added Holts.

Wire Service
 
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