No ticket to ride

Some may remember last August’s arrest of Jermal Ponds, the Cedarbrook man charged after being stopped carrying a duffel bag containing a disassembled assault rifle, loaded pistol, knife and a prescription narcotic aboard the northbound Broad Street Subway.

At the time, Ponds, 29, maintained that the guns were legally purchased, the Percocet was his and that he was just transporting them from one location to another.

All that turned out to be true. But that didn’t make Ponds any less guilty when he went for a nonjury trial before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Nina M. Wright-Padilla, who today found Ponds guilty of four firearms charges and one count of possession with intent to distribute the Percocet.

The judge set sentencing for July 30 and, for someone with one misdemeanor marijuana possession conviction on his record, Ponds is facing stiff time: a mandatory 5 to 10 years in prison and a maximum of 16 to 32 years, according to Assistant District Attorney Allison Worysz.

The judge revoked Ponds’ $200,000 bail and he was taken into custody pending sentencing.

Defense attorney Daine A. Grey Jr. said he and Ponds are weighing their options but added that he believes Ponds was “railroaded by the media” because the case involved an AK-47 assault rifle.

“Basically, these kinds of cases happen 40 times a day in Philadelphia,” Grey said.

Ponds was arrested at 5:31 p.m. last July 31 at the Fairmount station on the Broad Street Subway after an unidentified woman told police she saw a man carrying a duffel bag of guns boarding the subway at City Hall station.

Ponds did not resist arrest and police said that, in addition to the weapons, Ponds’ bag had a “banana clip” of 40 bullets for the rifle and a foot-long bayonet.

Ponds ran afoul of the law because he did not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon and because the prescription label had been removed from the vial containing 22 Percocet tablets. The unmarked pills and $712 in cash that was also in the bag were consistent with someone who sells illegal drugs, police alleged.

Ponds testified that he legally owned the guns and the Percocet and was transporting them from his ex-girlfriend’s place to his own.

There have been recent changes in the “Crime & Punishment” blog involving the start-up of the website. Among the new features is my colleague, John P. Martin, The Inquirer’s reporter covering the federal courts in Philadelphia. I had the pleasure of first working with John last year covering the clergy sex-abuse trial involving Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese. The two of us will now be able to chronicle the federal and local faces of criminal justice in Philadelphia. – Joe Slobodzian

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