No life sentence for felon who attacked cop

The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — A felon who allegedly put a gun to a police officer's head and narrowly missed killing him has been spared a possible life sentence because of missing court records.

Federal prosecutors hoped to send Germaine Battis, 36, to prison for life as an armed career offender. But a miffed federal judge said Monday the spotty city court records left her unable to impose more than 10 years on a weapons charge.

Battis has three prior state convictions from the early 1990s - for striking a police officer with his car, for taking part in a shooting and a a 1993 drug conviction.

But U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody could not determine whether the drug case was sufficient to trigger the career-criminal statute, because the police complaint, court testimony and the specific conviction were missing from city court files.

"It doesn't get more aggravating than this. And can you think of a more serious case, where a guy tries killing a cop? It's a little disheartening," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Miller said Tuesday.

The career criminal statute would have carried a maximum life sentence, a 15-year minimum and a likely guideline range of nearly 30 years.

Assistant Federal Defender Mark Wilson successfully argued that the statute should not apply, given the missing details of his client's background.

"They have to prove it to a certain standard, and they couldn't in this case," said Wilson. "As you can imagine, the record-keeping in any municipality is kind of overwhelming at times, and it predates the computer era."

Battis still faces a state charge of attempted murder over the 2003 police encounter, which occurred when police responded to a disturbance outside a bar. He also faces a possible 10-year term for violating parole, Miller said.

Associated Press
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