By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Joshua L. Stewart, the man convicted Tuesday of murdering William “Bill” Basilone, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday for participating in the Dec. 20, 2011, robbery and shooting at B&M Market in Farrell.
Stewart’s alleged accomplice in the Basilone murder – Devine A. Campbell – was charged 13 months ago by Southwest Mercer County Regional police with shooting B&M owner Basil Ramahi during the robbery. His charges in the Basilone and B&M cases are pending in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.
The indictment charges Stewart, 20, formerly of Farrell, with robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery under the Hobbs Act, a law enacted to allow federal jurisdiction over such cases when the incident affects interstate or foreign commerce. However, courts have ruled that the effect on commerce can be minimal to support a Hobbs Act prosecution, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website.
The Hobbs Act often is used in prosecuting public and labor union corruption, commercial disputes, organized crime, gang activity or wide-ranging schemes, the DOJ said.
Stewart also was charged with using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.
At Campbell’s preliminary hearing on the B&M case in April, Ramahi testified he was in the store alone at about 7:15 p.m. Dec. 20, 2011, at 644 Wallis Avenue, when two men with their faces covered entered the store, one of them holding a gun.
“They shot two bullets” into the air,” he said. “I raised my hands.”
The gunman came up beside him and Ramahi recognized him as Campbell, although he did not know his name at the time.
“He is a customer,” Ramahi said. “He came in all the time.”
Ramahi went to the cash register to get money and handed over about $200 to Campbell.
“He shot me in the hip,” Ramahi said of Campbell.
The other man, presumably Stewart, grabbed cigarettes from behind the counter, Ramahi said.
Ramahi was adamant that Campbell was the shooter, but testified that he did not recognize Stewart as the other man.
Police said .22-caliber shell casings recovered at the scene were fired by the same gun that was used to kill Basilone.
The penalties for robbery and conspiracy are up to 20 years each, and the gun charge carries a sentence of 10 years to life with the stipulation that the sentence be served consecutive to the other counts.
Stewart is facing a life sentence for the Basilone murder and was sentenced in August to 10 to 20 years for the armed robbery of a man Dec. 29, 2011, in Sharon.