We appreciate your donation to the Phillip Vance GoFundMe! Since we are not permitted to put anything about Philip’s innocence or how the system harmed him on GoFundMe, here’s what you need to know.
Philip Vance is innocent and everyone will know that if we can make sure he gets a strong legal defense and his day in court! He was imprisoned because he was Black and poor and didn’t have the money for a competent lawyer to defend him against a racist criminal punishment system.
Philip’s case is a clear example of wrongful conviction. There was no ballistic or DNA evidence tying Philip to the crime scene. An eyewitness reported hearing a masked man yelling something in Spanish as he fled the store the night of the murder. Philip does not speak Spanish.
The state’s case relied on coerced testimony by the police and jailhouse informants who benefited from lying. Eight of the states witnesses have recanted in signed affidavits. One informant was a sister of one of the investigating police officers.
The police officers who lied on the stand and railroaded Philip were part of the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Metro Gang Strike Force. The MGSF were found so corrupt by the FBI that they were disbanded.
The Conviction Review Unit, in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, will release their “findings” regarding Philip’s case at the beginning of March. Thus far it has functioned as a gatekeeper more than a freedom agent. There is an absence of integrity and an absence of goodwill.
Philip’s case must be brought to court within 45 days after the CRU closes their case or the eight signed affidavits from witnesses recanting their testimony will expire. We urgently need $30,000 as soon as possible so we can retain the lawyers that Philip has chosen.
Thanks to the generosity of so many people who care we are on our way!
Please share this website and the GoFundMe with your family and friends so we can ensure that Philip Vance has the legal representation he deserves!
Read more details on this website and follow his Facebook https://tinyurl.com/Philip-Facebook for updates.
Philip appreciates everyone who has contributed and he shared this message
The attempts to silence my truth, and my journey to freedom continue. The original link to help fund for my legal counsel has been removed. We are off to a GREAT start!"
A petition to release Phillip from Solitary Confinement was circulated and signatures were delivered Commissioner Schnell at the Department of Corrections on 1/26/24.
For each signature on the petition, a Free Philip Vance mini sign was left at the office.
POLICE CORRUPTION and UNETHICAL ACTS influenced and led to the wrongful conviction of Philip Vance in 2004. On December 22nd, 2002, (CM), a bartender at The Buttery bar located downtown Saint Paul, said she called her brother John McManus, who was a Sgt. with the South Saint Paul Police Department (S.S.P.P.D) and a member of the, now disbanded, Metro Gang Strike Force (MGSF) sometime that night after 10 pm. (CM) informed Sgt. McManus, that a patron of the bar named Philip Vance, who went by the name Florida/Florida Boy” had made comments
to her this night that he had “fucked up” and mistakenly shot someone. That night a robbery/homicide had been committed in South Saint Paul at a small store called Sabreen’s. The store clerk, Khaled Al-Bakri was killed. Vance immediately became a suspect.
**The fact that Vance became a suspect the night of the murder is important. **
After being charged with Al-Bakri’s murder, Vance was able, through his discovery, to read witness statements, as well as see the evidence gathered from the crime scene. Inside the store, no evidence matched or linked Vance to Al-Bakri’s murder. Outside the store, investigators collected a soda can and a cigarette butt from the area where witnesses say the culprit’s getaway vehicle had been waiting. DNA and fingerprints were run on both, but nothing helpful came from the can and the DNA from the cigarette butt matched DNA from a past crime scene. The DNA found on the cigarette butt was never identified. No DNA found matched Vance’s and nowhere in Vance’s discovery were there recorded interviews.
Vance discovered that a woman named (KJ) went into Sabreen’s the night of the murder and saw a masked assailant behind the counter. She told investigators as well as the 9-1-1 dispatcher that once she saw the masked assailant, he yelled something in Spanish, as if notifying or alerting someone else. She says she quickly retreated to her vehicle and before she could turn the ignition, two masked assailants fled the store and headed towards the alley behind the store. Because of the masks she was unable to give any description of the assailant’s race.
For thirteen months the S.S.P.P.D worked with the Minnesota Gang Strike Force to investigate Vance and his alleged involvement in the Sabreen’s homicide. During this time span, Vance was interviewed on four occasions by investigators. Vance consistently maintained his innocence and denied telling (CM) he shot anyone. Vance even provided an alibi for the time of the murder. He was at the residence of a female friend. Investigators interviewed his alibi witness (DJ) and she verified that Vance was at her residence that night. Vance and his alibi witness were not questioned about his whereabouts the night of the murder until roughly a month after the crime. This prevented Vance and his alibi witness from being able to give more accurate, specific details of their night together. However, they both agreed that during the week of Christmas, Vance visited daily.
During the second interview with Vance, investigators told him they could use phone records and cell towers to pinpoint the time of his locations the night of the murder from his cell phone. Since a month had passed since the murder happened, the location could no longer be established. Through discovery, it was found out that investigators failed to retrieve cell site records from the phone company. Investigators allowed time to elapse and could not obtain records for the location of Vance’s phone the night of the murder. Sprint had told investigators that after 90 days records are erased from the database. Vance became a suspect the night of the murder, which means they had the entire 90 days to get the cell site/records location. Investigators told Vance a month into the investigation that they would retrieve the location records, but they allowed the records to be erased before they asked for them.
Weeks following the murder at Sabreen’s, the officers from the MGSF enlisted the assistance of a confidential informant that knew Vance personally. They convinced (MS) to wear a wire to convince Vance to sell her a gun--anticipating that it would be the gun used in the murder. They also instructed (MS) on dialogue that would get Vance to admit his involvement in the 12/22/02 murder. The first week of January 2003 (MS) met with Vance on two occasions wearing a wire as investigators said they listened to and recorded interactions between the two. (MS) purchased a firearm from Vance on one occasion. At a second wiretapped meeting between Vance and (MS), police made allegations that Vance commented to (MS) that he had “shot someone over south” two weeks prior, despite their being no recordings of these alleged statements. The firearm that (MS) purchased from Vance was tested and determined NOT to be the weapon used to kill Al-Bakri.
ATF determined the gun had been stolen from an Ottertail residence in 1997. In April 2003, Vance was indicted federally for possessing a stolen firearm transferred through interstate commerce. Being a Florida native, a Federal Judge considered Vance a “flight risk” and ruled that Vance be detained until his fate was decided. Vance was then sent to Sherburne County jail in Elk River, Minnesota, where he spent the next eight months with other INS, state, and federal detainees. In this eight month span Vance was housed with (TC), (IH), and (JN). (This would later be detrimental to Vance.) Vance eventually pled guilty to possessing the firearm he sold to (MS), and because of almost NO CRIMINAL HISTORY, he was only sentenced to ten months. Vance did the remaining two months at FCC, Sandstone.
On Friday, February 13th, 2004, Dakota County charged Vance with First Degree Murder of Khaled Al-Bakri. Vance was arraigned and plead not guilty to all charges. It was discovered that the Judge to preside over Vance’s trial was Judge McManus and brother of (CM), The Buttery bartender, and John McManus, the same Sgt. McManus from the South St. Paul Police Department (S.S.P.P.D.) and member of the Metro Gang Strike Force (MGSF) who (CM) called to report that Vance told her that he shot someone. Judge McManus was forced to recuse himself from the case. Judge Rex Stacy took his place. The Dakota County Prosecutor at the time and now Dakota County District Attorney, Kathryn Keena, was to try the Vance case. It would be eight months before Vance’s trial.
During the ten months Vance spent doing time for the federal gun charges, MGSF investigators were questioning and interviewing witnesses of their own. Sgt. John Pyka of the S.S.P.P.D. and
the MGSF visited (MC) to convince him to become a confidential informant while he was detained for a 2003 robbery/homicide of a store clerk at a Northeast Stop-n-Go in Minneapolis. Initially (MC) was suspected of the Sabreen’s murder. Officer Pyka directed the conversation with (MC) to Vance. Sgt. Pyka asked (MC) if he had any knowledge of Vance’s involvement in the Sabreen’s murder. He told (MC) if he would assist him, he would speak on his behalf when he was sentenced. The following day (MC) told investigators he was at The Buttery Bar the night of the Sabreen’s murder drinking with Vance and that Vance allegedly told him that night that he had killed someone. (MC) said his friend, (TC), and the brother of (TC), were present during this conversation. (TC) was then interviewed, and he backed (MC’s) story. (MC) would testify to this same story to a Grand Jury that indicted Vance.
Investigators also spoke to (RH), (EG), (GE), and (JM). (RH) told investigators that the week before Super Bowl Sunday in January 2003 Vance told her he was under investigation for murder, and that he did it, but had a good lawyer. (EG’s) girlfriend’s number was called the night of the murder by Vance’s phone. (EG) told investigators that on the night of 12/22/02 he was at The Buttery with Vance and used Vance’s phone to call his girlfriend. He told investigators in his first interview that he did not have any knowledge of Vance taking part in any murder. But almost a year later, in December 2003, while in jail on drug charges, (EG) told investigators Vance admitted to him that night that he “fucked up” someone. Afterwards, (EG) told investigators that he needed to get out of jail as soon as possible, particularly before New Year’s Eve.
(GE) was incarcerated with Vance for a short stint in January 2003 at the Ramsey County Workhouse. (GE) says Vance saw him with law books and asked him if he could ask him some legal questions. (GE) told investigators that Vance told him in detail what was taken from the store and that he in fact was the trigger man. (GE) told investigators he told Vance he had nothing to worry about. (GE) then called his girlfriend and had her call the S.S.P.P.D to come speak with him about the information he had about the Sabreen’s murder.
(JM) told investigators that earlier on 12/22/02 he was with Vance and another friend at the Radisson Bar where (MS) worked. (MS) told investigators that earlier on the day of 12/22/02 Vance came into her bar at the Radisson with two other individuals and that Vance spoke of his
“money being low” and having a “plan” to get “plenty money”. (JM) says Vance called who he described as the “South St. Paul Girls” to come pick him and his friend up. When the girls arrived, (JM) said he was asked to ride, but he declined. (JM) told investigators no talk of robbery ever occurred while he was present with Vance.
After Vance’s arrest, his photo was plastered over numerous news channels. Seeing this, (TC), (IH), and (JN) ALL called investigators while serving their federal sentences. Each told investigators that while incarcerated with Vance in Sherburne County, he admitted to robbery/homicide. Another inmate Vance was incarcerated with in Dakota County was (DR). (DR) allegedly made some incriminating statements to another inmate in Dakota County who told investigators. (DR) was then questioned about his involvement in the Sabreen’s murder. Police investigators told (DR) if he could assist them, they would speak on his behalf when it was time for him to be sentenced. (DR) told investigators that Vance told him he had in fact committed the murder.
Through Vance’s discovery, it was uncovered that (TC), the friend who told investigators he was present with (MC) at The Buttery the night Vance allegedly admitted to murder, was actually incarcerated on that day. (MC’s) Grand Jury testimony that he was there was false.
An affiliate of Vance, (RR), was set up in a drug buy by the MGSF so they would have leverage over him in order for them to get information on Vance’s involvement in the murder. He told investigators he had no knowledge of Vance committing this murder.
It is well-documented that using jailhouse informants to secure convictions is problematic and results in wrongful convictions. As of 2020, at least 197 wrongful convictions (nationwide) have
case) ought to immediately call into question their reliability. Unlike corroborating testimony from multiple “disinterested witness,” jailhouse informants have an inherent incentive to
bargain their words against another inmate to secure better deals for themselves, as happened in Vance’s case. Moreover, they’re likely to collaborate (align their stories) in jail to make their testimony as “valuable” to police as possible, regardless of its connection to the truth.
During jury selection Vance asked each potential juror if they thought that police could or would lie to obtain a conviction. Many said “No,” they believed that the police were honest and there to protect and serve the community. The State eliminated those that said “Yes,” from being jurors. Vance’s jury was full of people who believed and trusted the police.
At trial, Prosecutor Kathryn Keena started her opening statements by weeping while explaining the life of Khalid Al-Bakri to influence the jury. The State’s theory was that Vance called (NR) and (YW) the “South St. Paul Girls” based upon (JM’s) statements, and these women allegedly drove Vance and a co-defendant to Sabreen’s where they committed this robbery/homicide. The State alleges that the girls then drove Vance and his friend to The Buttery and shortly after they arrived is when Vance confessed to (CM). For reasons unknown (MC) did not testify at Vance’s trial.
(JM) testified that Vance called the “South St. Paul Girls” to pick him and his friend up from the Radisson Bar where (MS) worked and that Vance never spoke of robbery. (CM) testified that Vance came into The Buttery the night of the murder and admitted to “fucking up” using hand gestures like a gun. She also testified to seeing Vance in the bar with (MC) She admitted she did not want to be involved in this case because she did not want it to look like “corruption” because one of her brother’s was a police officer and the other, a Judge.
(TC), (IH), (JN), (GE), and (DR) all testified that while being incarcerated with Vance, he admitted to them he robbed/killed someone. (EG) testified that Vance admitted to him he “fucked up” somebody. (RH) testified that in early January 2003 Vance told her he was being investigated for a murder, and that he did it, but has good lawyers.
Officers from the S.S.P.P.D testified that they were present and listening to the conversation Vance had with (MS) and they all heard Vance admit to shooting someone two weeks prior, over on the “Southside.” The MGSF testified that (MS) called them the day of the murder and told them that Vance had made comments indicating he was going to rob someone. And later that night, Sgt. John McManus was called by his sister (CM) who reported that Vance indicated that he had shot someone. These officers also testified that (MS) had worked as a confidential informant for them in the past. They asked her to wear a wire and purchase a firearm from Vance. They also asked her to elicit an incriminating conversation from him to connect him to the Sabreen’s murder. During the wire sting they ALL listened and allegedly heard Vance say he shot someone five times two weeks ago over on the “Southside.” MGSF officers claimed that because of audio issues they were unable to record these incriminating statements Vance allegedly made and did not produce a recording.
(MS) testified that at her job, along with two other guys, Vance made statements that his “money was low” and that he would have “plenty money” when he returned. She also said she had worked with the MGSF in the past. She said she agreed to wear a wire with Vance. She testified that Vance sold her a gun on one occasion and on the second occasion Vance admitted he shot someone over south five times. She also testified that police helped her financially to move out of state for assisting them. (MS) wept on the stand, stating she feared for her life for testifying against Vance.
Nitu Singh/Cean Shands, Vance’s attorneys presented NO DEFENSE and called NO WITNESSES in his defense. In her closing, Keena reminded the jury how significant it was that so many people testified that Vance admitted to murder. (CM), (EG), (RH), (TC), (IH), (JN), (GE), and (DR). She admitted that (GE) was given funds to help pay bills for his assistance, as well as (MS). She admitted that guys facing prison time were given consideration for their assistance and cooperation. Keena reminded the jury that (MS), S.S.P.P.D and the MGSF all heard Vance say he
shot someone two weeks prior over on the Southside. Keena also reminded the jury that Vance had no alibi for the night of the Sabreen’s murder and that he could not answer for his whereabouts at the time of the murder. Vance’s defense attorney simply said in his closing that Vance was innocent and did not even mention Vance’s alibi witness, the lack of any DNA or identifying evidence or recordings that corroborated the conversations the police testified they heard. Vance was convicted 6 hours later and sentenced to life in prison.
Shortly after Vance’s conviction in October 2004 he was sent to Minnesota Correctional Facility - Saint Cloud to begin his life sentence. His first week in Saint Cloud was spent in solitary confinement, because (DR) was also in the prison at Saint Cloud. Vance would begin his life sentence in solitary confinement until (DR) was relocated. While in segregation, Vance meets (MW), who later signed an affidavit that explained, before Vance came to solitary confinement, (DR) was there and told (MW) that he lied on “Florida” to get home sooner. (MW) asked (DR) why he took someone’s life. And (DR) replied, he did what he had to do to get home.
Not long after, (TC) wrote Vance a letter from another Minnesota Correctional Facility - Faribault. (TC) told Vance that he had changed religions and needed to tell the truth. (TC) (TC’s) brother) wrote that he lied to help (MC) get a lesser sentence for the murder he was guilty of. (TC) says (MC) was his best friend and that while in Hennepin County, he called (TC) and told him what to say to the investigators when they came to talk to him. Vance sent this letter to his then appeal attorney, Roy G. Spurbeck, but unfortunately, Spurbeck never received the letter. (TC) signed an affidavit under the penalty of perjury to this. (JM) signed an affidavit that the day
he testified to was not December 22nd, 2002, the day of the murder. (JM) testified that Vance called who he described as the “South Saint Paul girls” to pick him and a friend up. The State used (JM’s) testimony to paint the picture that (NR) and (YW) came and picked Vance and his
friend up and drove them to commit the Sabreen’s murder. (JM) said that Vance spoke of going to the liquor store with the girls, and at that time the liquor stores were not open on Sundays, so the day he testified to could not have been 12/22/02. (JM) testified that no talk of robbery by
Vance was ever uttered.
Eventually federal investigators Andrew Luger and John Egelhof began investigating the Metro Gang Strike Force because of reports of police corruption. Investigators say these officers led a
“rogue” culture for some time. Investigators discovered that officers were stealing money and property, as well as drugs. Officers were taking property from raids that were not confiscated. Cars were missing that had been confiscated. Guns were missing from evidence rooms. A
victim’s property was discovered to have been sold to the sister of an officer. Bribery, coercion, manipulation, and lots of “unethical acts” were displayed by this unit. Officers John McManus and John Pyka were both suspended for their actions of unprofessionalism from this process. These two officers played critical roles in the wrongful conviction of Vance and shortly after suspension continued to serve as police officers.
Several times (MC) spoke with investigators as well as Innocence Project representatives. (MC) told these sources that he never knew Vance and had never met Vance. He said his statements and testimony were derived by police investigators. (MC) says he was not at the Buttery Bar the night of the Sabreen’s murder with Vance. (MC) said he was fed the information about the case from the police, specifically OfficerJohn Pyka, who had interviewed (MC). (MC) signed an
affidavit under the penalty of perjury for this recantation.
(RH) spoke to a highly trusted source who she allowed to videotape/record her as she admitted that her testimony that led to Vance’s conviction were false. (RH) says police harassed her five days in a row to give incriminating statements about Vance. When she refused, the police threatened to place her then husband in jail. If you read statements and listen to the recording of (RH) with police, she is being spoken to at a city bus stop on her way to work. Police were clearly harassing her. *Shortly after this recantation (RH) unfortunately passed away. * R.I.P
(DR) eventually decided to speak his truth. (DR) wrote in an affidavit under the penalty of perjury that Vance never told him he killed the store clerk at Sabreen’s. In fact, (DR) says the information he told investigators and the jury derived from reading Vance’s discovery while in Dakota County’s Law Library with Vance. This explains why (DR) explained things in detail to the jury. (DR) also admitted he lied to retain a lesser sentence for the charges he was facing.
After almost 20 years and diligent investigating, another highly trusted resource found and
contacted (MS). (MS) briefly spoke of her new life since Vance’s trial. She then admitted that she thinks of “Florida” every day. She told this source that she didn’t call the officers the day of
the murder. She says she was approached by MGSF officers to set Vance up. They asked her to
wear a wire and elicit incriminating statements. (MS) says she had a drug problem at that time,
as well as facing charges and needed money. She says officers promised to take care of her needs if she cooperated. She agreed. She purchased the gun from Vance, and immediately brought it to them. She says on the day she was to elicit an incriminating conversation from
Vance, he didn’t say the things she or the MGSF testified to him saying. Therefore, in mid-
January while in Ramsey County Jail on charges falsely created by police, (MS) attempted to
speak with Vance during a visit there that was being recorded. She asked Vance questions about shooting anyone and Vance denied doing anything. The highly trusted source speaking
with (MS) flew to the place (MS) now resides. (MS) signed an affidavit under the penalty of
perjury that she had ultimately lied about Vance. (MS) told the source to tell Vance she was sorry for what she did to him.
Recently, it was discovered through the guidance and teachings of Law Professor, Carl Warren, and his students from Saint Thomas Law School that the recording of Vance’s alibi witness (DJ) was found. (DJ) told investigators in January 2003 that Vance was at her residence the night of
the Sabreen’s murder. But because of the time since the murder had occurred and when they interviewed her, she could not give accurate/specifics about that night. (DJ) was interviewed recently and remembered her and Vance arguing that night. Vance threw (DJ’s) shoes on the
roof of her house, then brought her a new pair for Christmas eve. (DJ) also says she made a phone call on Vance’s phone that same night to Chicago. She called (JR’s) residence a (773) area code to speak with her sister (SJ) She says her sister had no phone, so she called (JR’s) residence to speak with her. The call is recorded on Vance’s cell phone records at 7:44 PM. The call lasted ten minutes. Records show that (JR) and (DJ’s) sister (SJ) lived in the same vicinity, on the same street at one time. Kathryn Keena told Vance’s jury in her closing that he had no alibi for that night, nor could he provide information on his whereabouts that night. This clearly proves Vance was with (DJ) the night and time of the murder.
The role the Metro Gang Strike Force played in Vance’s wrongful conviction and incarceration was unethical and a civil rights violation. So was coercing (RH) and (MC) and threatening (RH) to place her husband in jail and promising (MC) to speak on his behalf at sentencing. As well as using (IH), (JN), (TC), (EG), and (DR) to lie with the incentive to get closer to freedom. (TC) lied because he wanted to help his best friend, (MC). (MS) needed money to relocate because she was facing criminal charges and wanted a reset and a second chance at life. (DR) wanted to get home to his family and did what he felt he had to do to get there - lie. (EG) wanted to get out of jail badly. Before New Year’s Eve to be exact, and so he lied.
Most significantly, the MGSF “rogue” culture is what created this injustice. Investigators told Vance that they would locate his cell phone records that would give his exact location at the time of the murder. They say the 90 days they had to get them elapsed and they were not able to retrieve them, yet they retrieved Vance’s phone calls in the 90-day span. They were unable to present the audio tape of Vance making the statements they and (MS) testified to at trial. (MS) says they had her lie, and so did (MC) and (RH). Why didn’t the police bring forth the recording they worked so hard to obtain to get the conviction they wanted?
Vance’s jury pool was asked if they thought the police could/would lie to get a conviction. It’s clear from all the lies that were uncovered that they would, and they did. A federal investigation discovered that MGSF officers did whatever they chose, right or wrong. They lived by their own rules and despite the law, they did things that were illegal and harmed others. They broke ethics and they broke codes – criminals pretending to be good guys. The State of Minnesota has a consistent tendency of using jailhouse informants and confidential informants’ testimony as
GOLD against defendants when their testimony favors the state’s case and goals. Now they are labeling these same informants as “untrustworthy” when they admit that the original statements they made to investigators and jurors were false and led to the wrongful conviction of innocent people, as in Vance’s case.
Philip Vance and his family, friends, and supporters are asking for the State of Minnesota and Dakota County Attorney, Kathy Keena, to investigate the officers who set Vance up and talk to the many informants who have recanted because they were coerced and manipulated. After twenty years in prison for a crime that he did not commit, it’s time to #Free Philip Vance.