The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

November 16, 2013

Stewart won’t testify

Basilone shooter opts out of Campbell trial

By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER — But that proved to be wishful thinking on the part of Campbell’s defense team, as convicted killer Joshua Stewart heeded his lawyers’ advice and declined to testify because of the effect it would have on any appeals or pending charges in the cases against him.

“There’re a lot of reasons for you not to testify,” Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John told Stewart, 20, formerly of Farrell.

Stewart was convicted in September of first degree murder and two counts each of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery for the Dec. 30, 2011, slaying of Farrell bar owner William Basilone.

Stewart shot Basilone five times near an alley at the corner of Roemer Boulevard outside his bar in a botched robbery attempt. Campbell is accused of being Stewart’s wing man.

Basilone was killed in an attempted robbery, authorities contend, although he had cash and jewelry on him when he was killed that wasn’t taken.

The Pennsylvania Crimes Code doesn’t include an “attempted robbery” charge.

Stewart was the man who shot Basilone, while Campbell stood in the alley, prosecutors said during Stewart’s trial.

He is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder, plus more time for the robberies and a conviction on other crimes that happened in the waning weeks of 2011.

The 19-year-old Campbell is on trial facing charges of second-degree murder and two counts each of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

The proceedings were set to begin Friday morning, but a lengthy session in St. John’s chambers with Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems and Campbell’s court-appointed defense team of J. Jarrett K. Whalen and Dustin Cole spawned a delay in the start until Monday.

St. John convened the private powwow to talk about one of the men on Campbell’s potential witness list, namely Stewart.

St. John summoned Stewart to the courthouse Friday to determine if the convicted killer understood the impact of his testimony.

“Did you discuss the pros and cons if you were to testify?” St. John asked Stewart, who is represented in the case by James Goodwin and Autumn Johnson, who were also called to court.

After a brief talk with his lawyers, Stewart said he’d like to “exercise my right to remain silent.”

It means loss of a “star witness” in Campbell’s defense, Whalen said after the hearing with Stewart adjourned.

It also means that Stewart won’t be sharing a sworn soliloquy about what happened that night, nor will he be subjected to cross-examinations by Kochems that could cause any legal defense of his actions irreparable harm.

Stewart is also under federal indictment for gun crimes that happened during the same alleged spree of robberies he and Campbell are implicated in during the waning weeks of 2011.

He was stricken from Campbell’s witness list and taken back to Allegheny County, where he is being held on the federal charges.

Campbell wasn’t present for the hearing; nor was the jury of six men and six women, along with three female alternates and one male alternate.

Jurors spent the morning in the jury room, presumably getting to know one another for about four hours before being dismissed after lunch.

The jury will be sworn Monday and then opening statements will be made before the prosecution begins its portion of the case.

If convicted, Campbell faces a mandatory minimum of 30 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole on the murder charge.