By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
SHENANGO VALLEY —
Emphatic to the end, Joshua L. Stewart denied robbing a man of $30 at gunpoint, an assertion that could keep him in the state prison sentence for all of his 10- to 20-year sentence.
“I didn’t rob Mr. Moss,” Stewart, 19, of Farrell, said Friday at his sentence hearing, adding that he did not know who did.
A jury on May 21 found Stewart guilty of two counts of robbery and one count of making terroristic threats.
Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John said Joe Moss was one of the best witnesses he had seen in his years as a judge and an assistant public defender.
Moss is an artist who pays attention to facial features, the judge said.
“He had you pegged,” St. John said.
The robbery occurred Dec. 29, 2011, in the 300 block of South Oakland Avenue, Sharon.
“This particular crime was pretty cold,” St. John said. “Sticking a gun in a guy’s face for $30.”
It’s not the end of Stewart’s legal troubles as he is charged with killing William “Bill” Basilone Jr. on Dec. 30, 2011, in Farrell, and robbing the Wild Game Inn, Farrell, on Dec. 28, 2011.
Stewart also has a juvenile record. He was adjudicated delinquent in 2008 for theft and receiving stolen property and in 2011 for false identification, escape and retail theft.
The Moss robbery occurred two days after he was released from probation on the false ID case.
Stewart admitted to smoking marijuana since he was 11 and selling it to support his habit. He has never had a legitimate job outside of detention, nor tried to get one, and did not identify any goals in life.
Stewart said it’s useless to set goals when you’re facing a murder charge and two robbery cases.
“Who would, in my situation?” he said.
At one time, he wanted to join the Army but had to be off probation for six months before he could, he said.
Stewart also has been a problem in jail, amassing 22 miscondcuts – 17 of them major – for infractions such as assault, threatening corrections officers and possessing a deadly weapon.
“Things I did, I did for a reason,” responded Stewart, who has been in “the hole” in jail since January because of his behavior. “I wasn’t going to let the COs do what they wanted.”
In asking for the maximum sentence, District Attorney Robert G. Kochems said Stewart is a young man with no respect for authority and has given no indication he would like to contribute to society.
“He would rather party, then go out and rob people,” Kochems said. “It shows someone who is not willing to use the brains he got a GED with. This is a man who has nothing to contribute to society.”
“It sounds exactly like you,” St. John said to Stewart.
“No, I’m not,” Stewart replied.
Assistant Public Defender Autumn Johnson said Stewart had an unstable home life with minimal adult guidance, making him a “victim of manipulative life influences.”
St. John said the difficulty he has had with the case is that Stewart is so young, “but you basically have demonstrated ... a total disregard for laws and haven’t demonstrated any purpose in life.”
“You are a man of criminality,” the judge said.
If Stewart can be said to have gotten a break, it’s that all of the counts merged into one because they were based on the same facts. That meant, instead of being sentenced on three charges, he was sentenced on one, a first-degree felony.
St. John gave Stewart credit for 579 days spent in jail.