RIDGWAY – The trial concluded Friday with a not guilty verdict for the three defendants charged in an armed robbery of a Johnsonburg home.
James Holding, 29, Angela Lynn Baker Williams, 34, and Kevin P. Williams, 36, all of Johnsonburg, were charged with robbery, theft by unlawful taking, reckless endangerment and terroristic threats. All three were found not guilty on all counts.
The defense called to the witness stand Kevin Williams, who testified that on the night of the alleged robbery, he and Angela had stayed at the Summit Motel in Ridgway. Kevin said that he had just got paid and wanted to do something romantic with his wife since they hadn’t had a honeymoon for their wedding.
Kevin also testified that he knew the alleged victim, Josh Baynor, and frequently bought marijuana from him. He said that he had been to Baynor’s apartment several times and often called before going there. He also said that he believed the allegations stemmed from Baynor being angry at Kevin for flirting with Baynor’s former girlfriend, Bridgett Miller.
“At one point I tried to hit on her,” Kevin said. “And I guess she told him, and I think that’s where all this is coming from.”
On Thursday, one of the prosecution’s witnesses described Kevin as holding a pistol sideways during the alleged robbery. Kevin, during his testimony, said that he had been trained in firearms to work as a security guard.
“I would not hold a gun sideways,” Kevin said. “That can break your wrist. That is not the proper way to hold a firearm.”
When Holding took the witness stand, he said that he had stayed home on Nov. 8, 2013, the night that the alleged robbery took place. He said that he had gone to bed around 10:30 p.m. and didn’t wake up until the police knocked on the door around 1 a.m. He said that he hadn’t seen his brother-in-law Kevin or his sister Angela that day, but that they had called him and told him that they were staying at the Summit Motel.
The Commonwealth called their first rebuttal witness, Denise Berger, who was working at the Summit Motel that weekend. She said that she did not see Kevin or Angela until Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 and that they had stayed there only one night.
The defense had produced a receipt during Kevin’s testimony that appeared to be from the Summit Inn and indicated that they had rented the room for Friday night and Saturday night. Attorney Gary Knaresboro, representing Kevin Williams, said that the receipt was signed by someone named Denise. Berger said that she didn’t give Kevin a receipt.
The Commonwealth called Bryan Parana, chief of Johnsonburg Borough Police to the stand. He testified that he had seen James Holding and Kevin Williams walking together in Johnsonburg on Nov. 8, 2013. He said that he knew them both and that they waived to him as he drove past in his patrol car. Both Holding and Kevin testified that they had not seen each other at all that day.
The Commonwealth called Jennifer Hobbs, principal of Johnsonburg Elementary School, who also testified that Kevin and Holding were together on the day in question. She said that she had had a meeting involving Holding and John Jipson about their daughters who were in the pre-kindergarten program at the school. She said that a third person, who introduced himself as Uncle Kevin accompanied them. This person, whom she identified as Kevin Williams in the courtroom, allegedly told Hobbs that he was there representing an attorney from New York City. Hobbs said that the school superintendent stopped the meeting because the school had no legal representation present. When the man calling himself Uncle Kevin refused to leave, the superintendent ended the meeting.
When Kevin returned to the witness stand, he said that he recalled accompanying Holding and Jipson to a school meeting but not on the date indicated.
During closing arguments, attorney Jim Daghir, representing Holding, urged the jury not to be confused by red herrings.
“The real issue is whether they committed the crime,” Daghir said. “Don’t convict these people based on the testimony of a crying teenager, one who, by the way, was living next to her mother with her teenage boyfriend. Those of you who have raised teenagers know what their emotional state can be.”
Attorney Knaresboro explained to the jury that no physical evidence was ever found that linked the three defendants to the robbery. The only evidence, he said, was the testimony of the four alleged victims. He cited Baynor’s conflicting statements about marijuana being stolen from him that night.
“Don’t put yourself in a situation where you may be helping a drug dealer with something that went wrong in his business,” Knaresboro told the jury.
Knarlesboro reminded the jury that Kevin and Angela were living in Brockway at the time and had no car. He said that it didn’t make sense for them to get a ride from Brockway to Ridgway, check into a motel and then commit robbery in Johnsonburg.
Attorney Marshall, representing Angela Williams, argued that even if the Commonwealth’s evidence was accurate, there was not enough evidence to convict Angela. According the testimony, Angela herself did not take anything from the apartment.
Attorney Tom Coppolo, representing the Commonwealth, in his closing arguments acknowledged that Angela should be considered not guilty of theft by unlawful taking. Judge Masson later instructed the jury that Angela is to be found not guilty of this charge.
Coppolo argued that while there were contradictions in the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses, they all testified to the identity of the two men with guns. He also argued that Angela should be found guilty of all other charges, since she did participate in the robbery and made threats to the alleged victims.
“If you attempt it and fail, you’re still guilty of robbery,” Coppolo said.
After approximately two hours of deliberation, the jury returned with a not guilty verdict on all counts for all three defendants.