By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems exhibited no fondness for Devine A. Campbell during Campbell’s four-day trial, but he might want to send him a thank-you note.
Campbell’s testimony in his own defense helped make the prosecution case “stronger than before,” Kochems said Thursday.
A six-woman, six-man jury deliberated about 3è hours before returning guilty verdicts.
The jury found Campbell, 19, of Farrell, guilty of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery in the Dec. 30, 2011, attempted robbery of Basilone’s, the bar on Roemer Boulevard in Farrell; robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery for an encounter with the bar owner, William Basilone, outside the bar; and second-degree murder for being an accomplice to Joshua L. Stewart, who shot Basilone to death.
The murder charge, the most serious offense, carries a mandatory sentence of 30 years to life in prison for someone who was under 18, said Judge Christopher J. St. John, who will sentence Campbell at a later date.
Campbell was 17 at the time, and Stewart, who has been sentence to life in prison for his role, was 18.
Family and friends of Basilone stifled their emotions, many of the women with hands or handkerchiefs over their mouths, as the verdicts were read. They and Campbell supporters left the courtroom in tears.
Kochems told the jury Campbell’s testimony amounted to “admission and avoidance,” but provided enough detail for them to read between the lines.
“You fill in the blanks because A plus B equals C, even if someone doesn’t tell you what C is,” he said. “Mr. Campbell doesn’t want to tell you the truth.”
Campbell admitted that he and Stewart talked about robbing the bar and Stewart invited Tyler Kalenic, then 15, to take part.
The trio walked around for a while and Kalenic was sent into the bar to find out how many people were there, Campbell said. Kalenic testified that he pretended to order a pizza, and then that he forgot his money.
Stewart entered the bar for the same reason as Kalenic, said Campbell.
After Kalenic decided not to participate and went home, Campbell and Stewart covered their faces – Campbell with a cut out shirt sleeve – and went to the bar, Campbell said.
However, the door was locked, something that Campbell said surprised them.
Campbell and Stewart went around the corner into an alley and, according to Campbell, argued about what to do next.
“I just thought it was over with,” since they did not have access to their target, the cash register, Campbell said.
“He (Stewart) wanted to keep going with the robbery,” Campbell said.
While they were arguing, Basilone came around the corner. He said, “Hey, what are you doing?” Campbell said.
If Stewart replied verbally, Campbell didn’t hear it
“He (Stewart) approaches him and starts shooting,” Campbell said.
Campbell said he “froze” when Stewart pulled out the gun, but later testified he froze when Basilone turned the corner.
Campbell said he ran after the first shot “to get away from the situation.”
He ran down the alley to Kalenic’s house and went in the unlocked front door. Stewart followed him there.
Campbell said he called Ciera Vincent and asked her to pick him up.
“I didn’t want to be anywhere near Josh,” he said.
However, Stewart and Kalenic also climbed into Vincent’s car and Campbell and Stewart got out at Stewart’s house.
Under cross-examination, Campbell said he did not intend to leave Kalenic’s house with Stewart.
“He followed right behind me,” Campbell said.
Campbell said he left Stewart’s house shortly after arriving.
Kochems asked why he stayed in the alley with Stewart after finding the bar door locked.
“I didn’t want to leave him out there,” Campbell said.
Defense attorney J. Jarrett K. Whalen defended the action.
“Your best friend tries to do something stupid, you try to talk them out of it,” he told the jury.
But, Kochems pressed Campbell. “He’s going to make something happen and you don’t leave?’ Kochems asked.
“I’m arguing with Josh when Mr. Basilone comes around the corner,” Campbell replied. “I’m trying to convince him it’s over with. The door is locked, it’s over with.”
Kochems told the jury the more likely explanation was that Stewart and Campbell were waiting for someone to come out of the bar to rob, possibly an employee with a night bank deposit bag.
Kochems asked Campbell if Stewart tried the back door, and surmised that such an action might have caused a noise that prompted Basilone to leave the bar. Campbell said he did not remember Stewart going to the door, but said he might have done so.
Campbell and Stewart “were getting bored,” Kochems said. “They had girls waiting for them and they had to do something. They needed money.”
Campbell claimed he was “not interested” in the girls, Vincent and her sister, with whom he had been in contact earlier.
He insisted, “I didn’t know there was anyone there,” meaning still in the bar.
He added that there was no plan to rob Basilone’s person, only the bar.
“There was no need to shoot him that night?” Kochems asked.
“No, sir, not at all,” Campbell said.