CeaseFirePA’s new extension of the Courtwatch program in Allegeheny County will support the prosecution of a teen charged with gun possession, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – read the full article here.

Alphonso Francis, 18, will face a non-jury trial on December 5 for an illegal firearm possession charge last June. Francis, a Turtle Creek resident, claims he bought the gun for protection after being shot at a week before the arrest.

In attendance will be Rob Conroy, Western Pennsylvania regional director of CeaseFirePA. Of the case, Conroy said “We want these things to be taken seriously [and] we want the top end of the sentence to be meted out for these” kinds of cases.

The original Courtwatch program, started in the Philadelphia branch of CeaseFirePA, is in its second year and has assisted district attorneys in approximately 140 sentencing hearings, according to Executive Director Shira Goodman. “We go in to provide a presence from the community and to allow testimony to dispel the notion that if the gun isn’t fired, there’s no victim,” said Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA. “We have people saying, ‘This kind of crime hurts our community, judge; take it seriously.’ ”

Reverend Phillip Battle, pastor of New Light Temple Baptist Church in the Hill District, said he’s eager to testify in a case involving his neighborhood. “We need to make it less advantageous to get an illegal gun,” Battle said. “Courts need to uphold the laws … and these criminal factions need to understand that the community, church and families are tired of being held hostage by their criminal activity.”