PHILADELPHIA — A Delaware man has admitted to participating in the 2021 gunpoint carjacking of U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon in Philadelphia’s FDR Park.
Josiah Brown, 20, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe to one count of carjacking and a related firearms charge. As part of the plea agreement, Brown also admitted to participating in a separate carjacking in Philadelphia in November 2021.
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and is to be sentenced in June. Rufe ordered him to remain imprisoned until then, calling the charges “very serious.”
Brown’s attorney, Rossman D. Thompson, declined to comment after the hearing.
In December 2021, prosecutors say, Brown pointed a gun at the Delaware County Democrat’s chest in the middle of the afternoon at FDR Park and demanded her car keys.
Scanlon, who was walking to her car after a meeting with other elected officials, handed over her purse, credit cards, cell phones, and keys and was not physically harmed, authorities said. Brown and an unnamed accomplice then climbed into the legislator’s 2017 Acura MDX.
But Scanlon’s SUV was equipped with a tracking device, authorities said, and within hours, agents found the vehicle — first parked at Brown’s house in Wilmington, and then at the Christiana Fashion Center in Newark, Del.
State troopers and federal agents then watched the unoccupied-but-running SUV until Brown and several other teens approached. As the agents moved in, Brown and the others tried to flee but were all eventually arrested.
A 13-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl, and a 16-year-old boy were charged in Delaware with receiving stolen property, while a 15-year-old boy was charged with criminal mischief and resisting arrest.
Only Brown, who was in possession of Scanlon’s keys on a light-blue Tufts University lanyard when he was arrested, was federally charged in connection with the carjacking.
Later that night, authorities said, Brown confessed that he had pointed an unloaded gun at Scanlon in an attempt to intimidate her into handing over keys.
According to court documents, Brown told police he and the other teens were driving around Philadelphia when they decided to steal a car. They spotted Scanlon at FDR Park, standing outside the vehicle and chatting with another person, and chose her as their target. Brown later wrote a letter to Scanlon, apologizing for stealing the car and pointing a gun at her, the documents said.
At the time of the carjacking, Brown was on probation in Chester County for charges including receiving stolen property and theft from a motor vehicle. He is awaiting trial in that case, with a hearing scheduled next week, court records show.
A spokesperson for Scanlon declined to comment Thursday, citing the ongoing legal matter. In January, Scanlon reflected on the carjacking, telling the congressional news site CQ Roll Call that the teens’ conduct “speaks to the deeper economic and societal problems that we have to address.”
“The statistics on who’s using guns and getting in trouble show it’s folks in poverty, who don’t have educational opportunity, who are hungry,” said Scanlon, whose district includes parts of South Philadelphia and suburban Delaware County. “I don’t think my views changed really much at all from the carjacking incident. I just would rather not have had that proof in my face.”
Carjackings in Philadelphia hit a record high last year. In 2022, the city saw more than 1,300 reported carjackings — a 53% increase over 2021, and nearly six times the annual total reported three years ago.
In January, another government official, former City Controller Alan Butkovitz, was carjacked at gunpoint outside his home in the Northeast.