Man gets up to 83 years for blinding fellow white supremacist

The Philadelphia Inquirer/February 23, 2016

By Joseph A. Slobodzian

Once they were comrades in the Aryan Terror Brigade, a white supremacist group based in Northeast Philadelphia.

On Monday, they stood separated by a horrific act of violence that left David Phillips blind and embittered, and Stephen Masten embarking on what likely will be life in prison for gouging out Phillips' eyes in a dispute about a woman.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Timika Lane called the 33-year-old Masten a "threat to society . . . volatile and aggressive" before sentencing him to 411/2 to 83 years in prison for the 2012 assault on Phillips and for assaulting a prison guard.

Lane noted Masten's history of mental illness and how he was schooled in racism as a child by a father who took him along "to assault various people of color."
"What troubles me is that you spoke a lot but you didn't apologize," Lane said. "That says a lot about who you are."

Masten, a short, muscular man whose body is heavily marked with racist tattoos, said that what happened was a byproduct of life in a violent and drug-saturated hate group.

"I'm still a human being," Masten said. "We were both involved in things we shouldn't have been involved in."

"Every day Dave Phillips thinks about being blinded is a day I have to think about what I did," Masten said. "I don't expect Dave to forgive me."

Phillips, 47, tall, thin, and equally tattooed, made it clear that forgiveness was not possible for him.

"Whatever happens to Mr. Masten, he will be able to see," Phillips told Lane. "He gave me a life sentence."

Masten watched Phillips as his victim said, "I never did anything to you. How can a human being do something like this? You're not human."

Authorities said there had been bad blood between Phillips and Masten about a purported incident involving Phillips and Masten's girlfriend when Masten was in jail.

On the night of May 6, 2012, Masten and fellow white supremacist Frank Casiano broke into Phillips' house on Shisler Street in the Northeast, and beat and threatened to kill him. Casiano then pinned down Phillips while Masten gouged out his eyes.

Casiano, 32, pleaded guilty last April to aggravated assault, conspiracy, and burglary, and is serving 20 to 40 years.

Defense lawyer Andrew G. Gay Jr. argued for a sentence that gives Masten a hope of living outside prison.

Gay presented the Rev. Matthew Palkowski, a Catholic chaplain in the city prisons, who testified that since his arrest, Masten has befriended an African American inmate and helped an Ethiopian inmate who had trouble understanding English.

Palkowski said Masten has "taken a first step on the road to conversion and rehabilitation."

Assistant District Attorney Erica Rebstock argued that Masten's 17 citations for prison misconduct since his arrest showed that he was not rehabilitated.

An additional incident to which Masten pleaded guilty Monday was a Nov. 30, 2012, assault on a prison correctional officer. Rebstock said Masten yelled racist comments and spat at an officer in "an attempt to infect him with hepatitis."

Five weeks ago, Rebstock continued, Masten was cited after a homemade 81/2-inch weapon was found in his cell.

"He is not amenable to rehabilitation," Rebstock told the judge. "If he ever gets out, he will hurt, maim, or kill another person in Philadelphia."

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