Two Buffalo teenagers were convicted Friday of murder and robbery in the bloody slaying of a popular cabbie, and technology played a role in securing the guilty verdict, according to prosecutors.
Jurors indicated they found the Power Point presentation that Assistant District Attorney Paul Parisi used in his closing statement to be persuasive, said Christopher J. Belling who also prosecuted the case.
As Parisi described the chronology of the crime to jurors, he presented a series of surveillance camera videos.
The videos showed Sean Austin and Maurice Howie from the time they entered Mazen M. Abdallah’s cab at the Commodore Perry Homes near downtown around 5 a.m. March 6 to the time they were seen walking on Kensington Avenue away from Norfolk Avenue where they had left the 55-year-old cabbie’s body in the Lincoln Town Car that he drove for Airport Taxi, after they took his wallet and cellphone.
Abdallah’s cab and his body were found by an Airport Taxi dispatcher about 7 a.m. The discovery brought a crowd of taxi drivers to the scene. They had been searching for Abdallah.
Abdallah, who became a U.S. citizen after coming to the United States from his home near Jerusalem about two decades ago, was well-liked by his fellow cab drivers.
The victim’s brother, Fayez Abdallah, said the verdict brings the family some closure but does not bring back their loved one.
Asked about the lengthy sentence the defendants face, he said, “Ultimately judgment will be at the end. God will be the judge.”
He thanked the Buffalo Police Department’s homicide squad, prosecutors and everyone involved in the case for their “110 percent effort.”
The fatal holdup was the last in a series of six robberies targeting cab drivers and food deliverymen in Buffalo that started in December 2012 and ended last March.
Austin and Howie, both 17, were convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree robbery in the attack on Abdallah and another count of first-degree robbery in a Feb. 9, 2013, holdup of another cabbie.
Austin also was convicted of six other robbery counts in connection with holdups involving two other cabbies, a pizza deliveryman and a Chinese takeout deliveryman.
Austin and Howie, a star football player at South Park High School who held school records in every category for a quarterback, were both 16 at the time of the fatal robbery.
Austin faces more than 100 years to life in prison at sentencing if the judge orders the sentences to run consecutively.
Howie faces a maximum prison sentence of 50 years to life if the sentences run consecutively.
State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia set sentencing for May 14.
Parisi told the jury that Austin and Howie left a trail of evidence that points to their guilt, “a trail that ended in the blood of Mazen M. Abdallah.”
The jury heard more than 60 witnesses during the nearly three-week-long trial and returned its verdict after deliberating for seven hours.