Prosecutor as victim: Part 2

Some readers may remember the post earlier this month about Andrei Govorov, the Philadelphia prosecutor who decided to intervene in a loud, angry confrontation on the Broad Street Subway and got pummeled for his trouble.

Well, Govorov was back in court last week to testify at the preliminary hearing of his alleged assailant, Kamile Ladson, 30, of West Oak Lane. From Govorov’s viewpoint, probably the best that can be said is that Ladson was held for trial on aggravated assault and other charges and Govorov left the hearing without a concussion.

Over the objections of the prosecutor and rulings by Municipal Court Judge J. Scott O’Keefe, defense attorney William D. Hobson focused on the role he suggested Govorov played in causing his own assault.

Govorov, 44, a prosecutor since 2008, said he left the District Attorney’s office at 6:30 p.m. on March 7 headed for the Broad Street Subway and his trip home. When he got to the northbound platform at City Hall Station, he said, there was a train stopped and two groups of young men – one outside the train and another inside – holding the door open and screaming obscenities at each other.

As tempers escalated, Govorov said, he decided to try to deescalate the situation by learning out the train door and yelling at the group on the platform to calm down and move away from the train. Then he said he turned to the two men inside, still heckling the crowd outside, and told them to “Shut your mouth. Just be quiet.”

Well, they didn’t, but the train started moving and Govorov settled in his end of the car until he reached his stop at Fairmount station. As he exited the car, Govorov said he heard one of the two men say, “white guy.” When he stepped out, Govorov said, he felt a smack on the back of his head.

Govorov said he turned to the assailant and identified himself as a city prosecutor and said “he was going to wait here with me until police arrived.” Instead, Govorov said, the man started throwing a flurry of punches to his face and head until the prosecutor got him in a headlock and immobilized him.

Govorov tried to relax the headlock but the man started punching again so he again restrained the man while calling by bystanders to call 911. At 7:09 p.m., Govorov said, SEPTA police officers arrived, arrested the assailant.

Govorov spent the evening in the emergency room at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Center City and was sent home about 3 a.m. after being diagnosed with a mild concussion.

Hobson, however, portrayed Ladson as the victim. Hobson said that Ladson and a friend had boarded the subway at South Street where the group of teens began harassing them, calling them a common street slur for homosexuals.

“Did you know my client was openly gay?” Hobson asked the prosecutor.

The rail-thin Ladson, head shaved except for a tuft of swept-back hair and wearing a high-necked tailored Edwardian-style jacket, stared ahead and occasionally shook his head from side to side.

Govorov replied that he did not know Ladson’s sexual orientation, only that he and his friend kept screaming and swearing throughout the ride from City Hall to Fairmount.

Then Hobson asked if Govorov had punctuated his plea to the men – “Shut your mouth” – with a common obscenity.

Govorov conceded that possibility and state Senior Deputy Attorney General John J. Flannery objected.

“Your honor, what did he think would happen if you’re a white man yelling that on a subway car full of black people?” countered Hobson.

Cue laughs of agreement from the courtroom audience.

O’Keefe, however, agreed with Flannery and the hearing ended with Ladson heading to trial, though free after his bail was lowered from $100,000 to $25,000.

Although the judge held Ladson for trial on the felony aggravated assault charge, Hobson said after the hearing that he still hoped to negotiate a plea deal in which Ladson pleads guilty to a misdemeanor and becomes eligible for a non-prison sentence.

“This was just an unfortunate incident for everyone involved,” Ladson added.

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