Delaware man gets 7 1/2-year federal term in carjacking of congresswoman's SUV in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Delaware man has been sentenced to 7 1/2 years in federal prison in the carjacking of a U.S. congresswoman's sport utility vehicle in a Philadelphia park almost two years ago.

Josiah Brown, 21, was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat, was walking to her parked car after a meeting in south Philadelphia's FDR Park shortly before 3 p.m. on Dec. 22, 2021, when Brown and another person demanded her keys, police said. She handed them over, and one drove off in the car while the other followed in a dark sport utility vehicle, police said.

Brown, then 19, said he didn’t know who the congresswoman was and his weapon was unloaded. He also didn't know that the vehicle had a tracker that quickly led authorities to his Wilmington home. He and four juveniles were arrested at nearby Christiana Fashion Center in Newark, Delaware, about 45 miles (74 kilometers) from Philadelphia.

Brown was charged with federal counts of carjacking and brandishing a gun during a violent crime, which carries a seven-year mandatory minimum term. The other teens — aged 13, 14, 15 and 16 —were charged in juvenile court in Delaware with receiving stolen property.

Scanlon didn't attend Wednesday's hearing but said in a letter to the judge that her sense of security remains shaken and she remains wary in public spaces. She also said she worries that the crime contributed to an impression of Philadelphia as an unsafe place to visit.

Carjackings hit a record high in Philadelphia last year, with more than 1,300 reported, a 53% increase over 2021, and nearly six times the annual total reported three years ago, the Inquirer reported.

“The moments during which my colleague and I retreated and sought cover … were certainly terrifying,” Scanlon wrote, adding that she didn't know if the defendant and his companion "were so lacking in judgment that they might shoot us as they made their escape.”

She said that while Brown should be held accountable for “a dangerous and criminal act,” the criminal justice system's goals are not only punishment but also rehabilitation and reform, "especially for someone so young.”

Authorities said Brown wrote a letter of apology saying he “was with the wrong people at the wrong time.” His federal public defender Rossman Thompson said Wednesday that Brown “has done everything he can possibly do to accept full responsibility for his crimes.”

A prosecutor, however, said Brown was attempting to deflect from his own responsibility.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe said she believed Brown was remorseful and supported Scanlon’s suggestion of giving him a second chance, but mandatory minimum sentencing laws required a term of at least seven years.

“We cannot tolerate this in our city, in our country,” the judge said. “It can’t be commonplace.”