Sunday, March 1, 2015

Wish granted

South Philly burglar gets prison for stealing from convent and neighbors.

Wish granted

When Philadelphia detectives questioned William Hagans last October about two burglaries at St. Gabriel’s Convent in South Philadelphia, Hagans denied that he was the figure on surveillance video.

What do you think should happen to the person who would steal $1,850 from nuns who work with the poor? detectives asked.

“They should do the time that they deserve,” Hagans replied.

On Thursday Hagans got his wish: 2 to 4 years in prison followed by six years probation for stealing from the convent at 29th and Dickinson Streets as well as two other night-time home break-ins and a two purse-snatchings at a South Philadelphia McDonald’s restaurant.

Hagans, 26, who pleaded guilty March 15, told Common Pleas Court Judge Donna M. Woelpper that he wanted to “accept total responsibility” and “apologize from the center of my soul.”

“Being locked up is not real punishment to me,” Hagans added. “Real punishment is that I can’t be a father to my two-year-old daughter.”

Defense attorney Geoffrey Kilroy said Hagans’ story was a common one: addictions to alcohol and drugs fed by stealing. Kilroy said Hagans had “hit rock bottom” and since his arrest had “never expressed anything but remorse for his conduct.”

Kilroy urged a sentence of probation or a prison term of less than 24 months so Hagans could remain in the Philadelphia prison system and get treatment and mental health services.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Kotchian was skeptical, however, and asked why Hagans continued to commit crimes last summer and fall if he had “hit rock bottom.”

Kotchian told the judge the money taken from the convent was for a food bank, to buy Christmas presents for the poor and to pay altar servers. She said Hagans told detectives that after the convent burglaries “he went crazy” and spent $150 on a new tattoo, $500 for a new cell phone and the rest on drugs.

Two of Hagans’ victims testified. The first, Diana Torres, said Hagans’ early morning break-in had terrorized her and led her to try to sell her home of 30 years.

“I don’t feel safe, he lives a block away from me,” Torres testified.

Another victim, Jose Almaraz, whom Hagans stabbed in the arm, said through a Spanish interpreter that he just had another surgery, a year after the attack, and fears the injury could cost him his job.

Hagans had 11 relatives in court promising to support his efforts to become sober and raise his daughter.

Woelpper imposed a state prison sentence though Kilroy said it would limit Hagans’ ability to get drug and mental health treatment.

“There also has to be punishment,” Woelpper added.

Kotchian said Woelpper ordered Hagans to reimburse Torres $30 for stolen property, $80 to the two women in the McDonald’s incident and $500 to the nuns in St. Gabriel’s convent. Kotchian said the remainder of the nuns’ loss was covered by insurance and Almaraz’s medical expenses were covered under crime victim compensation program.

About this blog
Inquirer reporter Joe Slobodzian covers the courts and writes about the people who find themselves there and what they face.

You can reach Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com. Reach Joseph A. at jslobodzian@phillynews.com.

Joseph A. Slobodzian
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