The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 16, 2013

Basilone plea deal falls apart

By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER COUNTY — The family of slain Farrell bar owner William Basilone Jr. got a private update Wednesday on the case to prosecute the men accused in the 2011 slaying.

The update, from Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems, came after an apparent plea deal fell apart.

“Nothing happened. It was a non-event,” Kochems said after briefing Basilone’s family, which packed three rows of Courtroom Two in Mercer.

The court had been prepared to convene for a plea agreement that had been reached in the cases against Joshua Stewart, 20 and Devine Campbell, 19, both formerly of Farrell, their lawyers said.

“There was a plea deal on the table. Everyone thought it was accepted and Mr. Campbell said (no),” J. Jarrett K. Whalen, who represents Campbell, said.

Court was never called into session, but the family was poised to watch the plea, along with a bevy of attorneys, court personnel and police including Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Chief Riley Smoot, who just shook his head as the deal fell apart.

Stewart and Campbell each took turns sitting in the jury box of the courtroom and Kochems and assistant district attorney Lauren Hackett were prepared at the prosecution table before a flurry of traffic ended with Stewart being returned to Mercer County Jail and Campbell getting set to change from prison orange to a shirt and tie as his trial on unrelated gun charges got under way an hour after his change of heart on the plea.

During a Monday hearing before Judge Christopher J. St. John, the Basilone case was continued to the July trial term.

Both men lived in Farrell and have been in jail since January 2012. They’re facing charges in four cases that are being prosecuted separately but are part of a series of robberies in the waning days of 2011 that include the Dec. 30, 2011, slaying of Basilone outside his namesake Farrell bar.

Stewart is charged with first- and second-degree murder and is the alleged gunman who authorities say shot the 58-year-old Basilone at least five times. Prosecutors say Campbell was with Stewart at the time and conspired with him to commit the crime.

Both men also face two counts each of robbery and conspiracy in the case, although Basilone wasn’t robbed during the shooting and had $440 in cash, credit cards and a gold ring on him when he was killed.

A third teen, Tylor Kalenic, formerly of Farrell, has cooperated with prosecutors and hasn’t been charged.