The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 22, 2013

Accused gunman guilty of armed robbery

By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — The man accused of shooting William Basilone Jr. to death outside his Farrell bar was convicted Tuesday of robbing a Sharon man at gunpoint outside his home the night before the killing.

The eight-woman, four-man jury found Joshua Lee Stewart, 19, guilty of two counts of robbery and a charge of making terroristic threats.

They deliberated more than three hours and were able to use two juvenile “adjudicated delinquent” cases against Stewart to weigh whether he was a credible witness in Tuesday’s trial. In those incidents from 2008 and 2011 he was charged with “crimes of falsehood.”

Stewart testified he wasn’t the man who robbed Joe Moss at gunpoint shortly after 6 p.m. Dec. 29.

“No, I did not,” Stewart said when his attorney James Goodwin asked him if he did it. “I don’t recall exactly where I was. I know for a fact that I did not rob Joe Moss. I never seen him before in my life.”

That day, “wasn’t a very eventful day for me. I don’t really recall what I did, what I ate.”

The jury believed otherwise, accepting Moss’ testimony about what happened that cold winter night.

Moss, who works at Sharon High school, was tired that evening. He’d been working with some of his athletes -- he coaches track and cross country for the Tigers -- and “once I finish, I generally kick back,” he said.

“I kick my shoes off and usually I’m home for the night,” he said.

That night his wife asked him to bring something to her at her day-care center a block and a half away.

He grudgingly acquiesced, but left the television on and his cell phone in the house as he went outside, he testified.

“It was cold,” he said. “When I came out of the house I saw a gentleman walking south on the opposite side of South Oakland.”

He didn’t know the man, although he said he knows most of the “kids” in the neighborhood.

The man, a younger black male, was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt.

“He did about his business, I’m about mine,” Moss said, noting that he didn’t greet him with the usual “How you guys doing? Don’t get in no trouble,” banter he tells the kids he knows at school and in the neighborhood.

He got in his car, which was parked on the curb of King Street outside his house, and reached to buckle his seatbelt when he looked up.

“And ohh, I thought it was a prank,” Moss told the jury.

“Less than a meter away,” a gun was pointed at his head and chest, he said.

“It startled me for a second,” he said. “That’s never happened. And I kind of looked at the guy.”

The man demanded cash, which Moss initially said he didn’t have. The man ordered him out of the car and he was standing so close he had to back up so Moss could exit the vehicle, Moss said.

“I got out of the car and he says, ‘I know you got money,’ ” Moss said. “The biggest thing going in my mind is I don’t want to get shot. I thought he was going to shoot me.”

Moss handed over $36 and the man walked south toward Farrell, he said.

He drove to his wife’s day-care center and she called 911 and Moss made a police report.

A few days later, on Jan. 4, 2012, Moss said, he recognized Stewart in a picture published on the front page of The Herald.

“That’s a picture of the person that robbed me,” Moss said.

He also picked Stewart out of 16 pictures Sharon police showed him to try to identify the armed robber.

Stewart was charged Jan 23 with the crime.

Moss’ testimony, coupled with the account provided by Sharon police detective Sgt. Steve Ray, was enough to convict Stewart.

Goodwin tried to show that Moss gave inexact descriptions of Stewart. He also pointed to discrepancies in the police reports made in the case.

Goodwin never denied a crime occurred.

“The bottom line is Mr. Moss went through a very scary ordeal,” Goodwin said.

But Stewart wasn’t the man who did it, Goodwin argued.

The jury didn’t buy it and returned a verdict of guilty.

Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John set sentencing for Aug. 9.

It’s the latest trial in the cases against Stewart and Devine Campbell, 18, who are charged in the Basilone killing, along with several other robberies in the Shenango Valley that happened in December 2011.

Last week, a jury found Campbell not guilty of robbery in a similar but separate case from Stewart’s.

Today, Campbell goes on trial for theft charges in connection with his part in a jail house robbery.

The trial on the Basilone homicide charges is set for July.

Both men have been held in Mercer County Jail since Jan. 3, 2012, on the homicide charges.