By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Assuming for a moment that it is Devine A. Campbell shown in video surveillance footage on the night William Basilone was murdered – Campbell has not acknowledged it is him – why did he pull on the front door handle of Basilone’s Farrell bar?
Basilone had already locked up his establishment on Roemer Boulevard for the night.
Was Campbell, who was 17 at the time, planning to have a drink? A Marggie dog?
While defense attorney J. Jarrett K. Whalen asserted during his opening argument Monday the six-woman, six-man jury would “hear very little credible evidence that Mr. Campbell is in any way connected to this crime,” he has not addressed what they should make of what they can see – a tug on the bar door shortly before Basilone was gunned down by Joshua L. Stewart, who has been sentenced to life in prison for the crime.
Tyler Kalenic told the jury Tuesday that it was Campbell in the video seen pulling on the door, with Stewart nearby.
Kalenic, who earlier had agreed to participate in the robbery, had split by this time and was not with his buddies.
Kalenic, who lived at 719 Hamilton Ave., Farrell, at the time, said he was at Stewart’s apartment earlier in the day – Dec. 30, 2011 – and Stewart showed him a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Kalenic said he held the gun, but quickly returned it to Stewart.
Later on, Kalenic, who was 15 at the time, was hanging out outside a friend’s home on Federal Street when Stewart and Campbell walked up. Stewart asked him, “Do you want to hit a lick, young bull,” Kalenic said, translating “hitting a lick” to mean robbing someone.
Kalenic said he agreed and walked off with Stewart and Campbell. The decision was made later to rob Basilone’s bar, he said.
“I was just young and not thinking,” Kalenic said of going along. “I just wanted some money.”
Campbell’s approval of the plan was implicit, Kalenic said. He did not talk about the plan or say that he agreed to it.
“He was just going with the flow,” Kalenic said.
Ciera Vincent also was there when Kalenic met up with Stewart and Campbell, but apparently did not hear Stewart’s invitation to Kalenic or any other discussion about a robbery.
She said she talked with Campbell about hanging out.
“He said they had something to do first,” she said, adding that “they” meant Campbell, Stewart and Kalenic.
Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems played surveillance video taken from a camera affixed to the exterior of Basilone’s bar that showed three men walking up the street. Kalenic identified himself, Stewart and Campbell as the trio.
A little later, a single man – Kalenic – enters the bar. Interior video shows him walking up to the cash register area. Kalenic said he ordered pizza, then said he had forgotten his money and left. It was all an act “to see how many people were in there,” he said.
Kalenic said he wasn’t sure if Stewart or Campbell asked him to check out the interior.
Later, Kalenic said, he told the others he was backing out.
“I didn’t want to have no part of it,” he said. “I sat there and thought about it.”
He said he walked home, and then Campbell and Stewart crossed Roemer Boulevard to the bar and Campbell pulled on the door, something Kalenic agreed he did not see.
Finding the door locked, Stewart and Campbell walked into the alley beside the bar.
Kalenic said he went right to his kitchen window after getting home, looking toward the bar. He said he did so to be “nosy.”
“I didn’t think they’d do it,” he said.
Campbell called Vincent at 10:45 p.m. on Stewart’s phone and told her “they weren’t done doing what they had to do,” she said.
From his kitchen window, Kalenic said he could see Stewart and Campbell by a wall across the alley from Basilone’s. The defense and prosecution stipulated Kalenic was 243 feet away on that rainy evening. Whalen questioned how Kalenic could see what was going on when there were tree branches, a trampoline, a garage and other obstacles blocking his view, but Kalenic maintained he could see everything clearly. He added that he could identify Stewart and Campbell “by the hoodies” they wore.
He said he saw Stewart start across the alley to rob the bar, when Basilone came around the corner.
“Josh put the gun to him,” Kalenic said.
“Then what happens?” Kochems asked.
“Shots,” Kalenic said.
Campbell remained across the alley, Kalenic said.
Mercer County 911 was called at 11:37 p.m.
Kalenic said he was surprised by the shooting.
“Josh never talked about shooting anybody at all,” Kalenic said.
Whalen asked Kalenic why Stewart would start to walk toward the bar to rob it when he knew the door was locked. “I don’t know,” Kalenic said.
Stewart and Campbell ran to Kalenic’s house, entering the unlocked front door, Kalenic said. Campbell took a seat on the couch in the living room. Stewart went to the basement, and then to the second floor, Kalenic said.
Kalenic said he believes Stewart ditched the gun in his basement, but no gun was found there. Stewart threw his hoodie behind a dresser in Kalenic’s bedroom.
Campbell called Vincent at 11:39 p.m. on Stewart’s phone and told her they needed picked up, she said, and Kalenic, Stewart and Campbell piled into her car after she arrived.
“They were just quiet,” she said, noting they were waiting on the porch.
Whalen asked Kalenic if he was in a “big hurry to get away.” “Yes, sir,” Kalenic said.
“Why did you run when you didn’t do anything?” Whalen followed up.
“I was just scared,” Kalenic said.
Vincent dropped off Stewart and Campbell at Stewart’s home, and Kalenic elsewhere. Kalenic said she dropped him off on Webster Street in Farrell, where he stayed the night with a friend, while she testified she drove him to Stambaugh Avenue in Sharon.
Whalen went over Kalenic’s story to police – both in reports written by police and Kalenic’s written statement – and testimony in court proceedings, noting how the story had changed both in the big picture and in details.
“You lied because you were scared?” Whalen asked.
“Yes, sir,” Kalenic said.
Eventually, “I started telling the truth,” Kalenic said.
Why? Whalen asked.
“I was thinking about the consequences,” Kalenic answered.
Kalenic acknowledged testifying under a grant of immunity that he could not be prosecuted for his testimony – and to having a similar arrangement with federal officials – and to sending Campbell, whom he said treated him like a little brother, two letters of apology.
“You’d have to be in an awful lot of trouble to turn in a brother?” Whalen queried.
“Yes, sir,” Kalenic said.
Kalenic also acknowledged he had posted on his Facebook page earlier in the day that Basilone was murdered that he wanted to obtain a gun.
“I was just trying to fit in with everybody else,” he said of the desire for a gun.
Whalen posited that Kalenic was saving his own skin, rather than telling the truth for altruistic reasons.
“Just as likely it was you who was the second man?” Whalen asked.
“I wasn’t there,” he said. “I was at home.”
Common Pleas Court Christopher J. St. John, said testimony could end today, but might spill over to Thursday.