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September 5, 2013

1st of 2 big trials set next week

---- — Next week, the first of two murder trials is set to begin to mete out justice for the Dec. 30, 2011, killing of William “Billy” Basilone Jr. outside his Farrell bar.

After a jury is seated in the trial of Joshua Stewart, the 20-year-old man authorities allege was the gunman that night as the now-19-year-old Devine Campbell stood by his side, they won’t be privy to evidence that the pair are alleged to be involved in a spree of other, similar crimes during those waning weeks of 2011.

Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. denied a motion to introduce those other crimes as part of the case against the men during their separate trials in the Basilone case.

“We are of course disappointed in the court’s ruling denying our motion, Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems wrote in an email seeking comment on the decision.

Prosecutors “are not currently planning on appealing the denial,” Kochems wrote.

Stewart’s attorney, James Goodwin Jr., declined comment on the decision, which the judge wrote he arrived at after “careful consideration.”

J. Jarrett K. Whalen, who will defend Campbell in a separate trial to be held after Stewart’s concludes, said the judge arrived at the “right decision.”

“We had to make a chart to understand it,” Whalen said of the prosecutions theory that several crimes were linked to the men.

The decision means the men will each get a “fair trial,” Whalen said.

“It makes the murder about the murder,” he said.

Authorities contend Stewart and Campbell also committed four armed robberies in Farrell and two robberies in Sharon between Nov. 29 and Dec. 30, 2011.

They’ve been in Mercer County Jail since January 2012.

The most serious of the charges the pair face are first- and second-degree murder stemming from the Basilone killing.

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