Sunday, March 7, 2021

Philadelphia Duo Indicted For Attempting To Set Off Explosive Devices Inside Wawa During Summer 2020 Civil Unrest

 The U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Pennsylvania released the below information:

PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Michael Fields, 34, and Desiree Adorno, 65, both of Philadelphia, PA, were arrested and charged by Indictment for their alleged attempt to rob a Wawa in Philadelphia with multiple explosive devices. Fields made his initial appearance in federal court today, and Adorno is scheduled to make her initial appearance in federal court on Monday.

Following peaceful protests in Philadelphia in the early afternoon of May 30, 2020 in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, civil unrest began to unfold later that afternoon and into the following day that resulted in widespread looting, burglary, arson, destruction of property, and other violent acts. The Indictment alleges that in early June 2020, Fields and Adorno conspired with other individuals to break into a Wawa store on Richmond Street in Philadelphia. In addition to stealing merchandise from the store, the Indictment alleges that the defendants had explosive devices in their possession, one of which was placed inside a lottery machine inside the Wawa, and two of which were placed near a safe and a cash register in the middle of the store. Police arrived at the store before any devices were detonated. Both Fields and Adorno are charged with conspiracy and attempting to maliciously damage property used in interstate commerce by means of an explosive, and aiding and abetting. Fields was also charged with possession of an unregistered firearm.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the entire Department of Justice will always support peaceful protest – we are sworn to protect the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “But that does not cover destructive rioting, looting, committing arson and other violent acts. Here, the defendants allegedly attempted to detonate explosive devices while robbing a store, potentially endangering many lives including those of police officers who responded to the scene. This conduct is not free speech and is not protected by our constitution; rather, it is criminal.”

“As alleged, these defendants were in possession of several explosive devices and appeared intent to use them,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division.  “This type of behavior places our entire community in danger.  I commend the outstanding work of the Philadelphia Police Department who acted swiftly and were able to arrest these individuals before further harm could be done.  ATF, along with our local, state and federal partners remain dedicated to protecting our community from violent acts of all kinds.”

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

If convicted, defendant Fields faces a maximum possible sentence of  90 years in prison, and defendant Adorno faces a maximum possible sentence of  80 years in prison.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Roberta Benjamin.

An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

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