Ex-Penn State recruit Isheem Young ‘coerced’ into robbing Wawa, assistant district attorney says
Imhotep Charter safety Isheem Young before the Panthers’ 33-14 loss at Harrisburg in August. (Sean Simmers | email@example.com)
PHILADELPHIA — Isheem Young was “coerced” into robbing a South Philly Wawa in July with his older brother, prosecutors said Thursday at Young’s preliminary hearing.
Young, a former Penn State recruit and Imhotep Charter star, was in court but didn’t speak during or after the hearing. His attorney said Young was not involved in the robbery.
“[My client] maintains his innocence,” Richard F. Klineburger III told reporters outside the Criminal Justice Center in Center City.
“So it’s kind of impossible to be coerced into something when you had no involvement in it.”
Young is charged with robbing the Wawa of $13,600 with two accomplices, police said. One of the co-defendants, Quasir Wingate, is Young’s brother and an assistant manager at the Wawa on Christopher Columbus Boulevard. The other co-defendant, Rafi Johnson, is the owner of a car involved in the robbery, police said.
Assistant district attorney Matthew Gehrke said Wingate, 24, “coerced” Young, 18, into participating in the robbery. Gehrke said Wingate, who was working at the time of the robbery, was the only employee with access to the safe.
When Young entered the manager’s office, Gehrke said, he pointed a gun at the other employee but not Wingate. The assistant district attorney also said a Wawa phone number made multiple calls to Young’s phone before the robbery.
Gehrke did not say whether charges would be reduced or dropped against Young.
On Jan. 1, a social media post began circulating from an unidentified Instagram user who said he or she was going to take responsibility for the robbery in court. No one stepped forward Thursday.
Klineburger said he did not see the post until recently, but it “does show there have been other people who may have been involved.”
“As far as I know, there’s been no investigation into that,” Klineburger said. “But that is another form of what could be reasonable doubt for my client where you have another individual apologizing for their behavior and saying that they did it and not my client.”
Johnson, 21, waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday morning. He’s scheduled to be formally arraigned Jan. 25.
Klineburger and Wingate’s attorney, William Joseph Ciancaglini, requested that the hearing be continued to “engage in additional investigation.” Young and Wingate’s next preliminary hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Jan. 25, court documents show. Wingate’s bail was decreased from $100,000 to $25,000, court documents show. He has been in custody since Dec. 1.
Young is facing charges including robbery, conspiracy, firearms violations and related offenses, according to court documents. He was arrested Dec. 1, police said. Philly.com reported, citing authorities, that Young admitted to committing the robbery, but Wingate did not make a statement to police.
Young was ranked as the No. 12 safety in the nation in the 247Sports composite rankings at the time of his commitment to Penn State in mid-July, and he was expected to sign with the Nittany Lions during the early signing period last month. On Dec. 2, multiple outlets reported Young was no longer a member of Penn State’s Class of 2018.
Young was arrested on Dec. 1 and posted bail on Dec. 29, according to court documents. Klineburger said Young is still working toward a football career at the next level. The attorney said Young, who was among the city’s top players in his junior and senior years, is “looking forward to continuing his education, graduating at the end of the year and furthering his education.”
“There’s no reason for him not to,” Klineburger said. “He’s innocent until proven guilty. He has still been furthering his studies. He’s still working out. He’s looking forward to furthering his career as well as his education.”