One juror watched but then averted her eyes as a video of a vicious beating was shown at the kidnapping and robbery trial of two Buffalo men.
The video showed a drug addict pleading for his life as one defendant shoved a gun in his mouth after he had been kidnapped and then terrorized for 17 hours in the other defendant’s home because of a drug debt.
It also showed the victim being forced to lick his blood off the boot of a third attacker.
In the end, the jury convicted Wesley Woods, 23, and Stephen Dawson, 29, of first-degree kidnapping, which carries a life prison sentence, and first-degree robbery.
“The jury couldn’t get past the video,” Dawson’s defense attorney, Paul G. Dell, said Thursday after the verdict.
Dawson recorded the beating of Barry Workman with his cellphone camera Dec. 28 and posted it on his Facebook page under the name “Shooter Steve.”
Dawson believed that Workman was a snitch who had brought police to Dawson’s home on a car complaint, and he posted the video to show what happens to snitches, Dell said.
Workman’s family saw the video. His aunt confronted Dawson the next day at his home on Brewster Street. Dawson led her and police to Woods’ home on Jewett Avenue, where police rescued Workman, 25, a crack addict who admitted spending $400 of his monthly government benefits on illegal drugs.
The video showed Dawson pistol-whipping Workman and then putting the gun in his mouth and telling him to suck the gun barrel “or I’ll pop you,” while Workman pleaded with him not to shoot him.
It showed Willie Stroud, who pleaded guilty to reduced charges and testified at trial, forcing Workman to lick his blood off Stroud’s boot, because he feared that Workman’s blood and DNA would implicate him.
Woods also was convicted of second-degree assault for placing a power drill on Workman’s front tooth and squeezing the trigger, breaking half his tooth.
State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia scheduled sentencing for Oct. 8.
Stroud, 24, pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery. He faces up to 25 years in prison.
In his closing statement, Assistant District Attorney John P. Feroleto, who had played the video of the gun and the boot licking during the trial, again played the 90-second portion showing Dawson shoving the gun into Workman’s mouth, threatening to shoot him and calling him a police snitch as Workman begged for mercy.
“It was not enough for the defendants to just hurt him, rob him and hold him against his will; these defendants humiliated and degraded him,” the prosecutor told the jury.
Feroleto dismissed Stroud’s testimony and the defense contention that the defendants and Workman were partying and taking drugs at Woods’ home that night and that Workman was beaten after a quarrel.
“This was not a party,” Feroleto said. “This was about collecting a drug debt by holding Barry Workman against his will and robbing him.”
He said that Workman owed Woods money for drugs and that Dawson was going to help his friend collect the debt. “They were going to teach him a lesson and hold him there until he paid,” he said.
Feroleto said the evidence backed Workman’s testimony about what happened that night. He said a police surveillance camera showed Woods catching up with Workman at 9:50 p.m. Dec. 28 on Jewett.
Workman said Woods told him to come with him or he would shoot him. He said he was taken to a second-floor room in Woods’ home, where Woods beat him with a gun. Dawson, Stroud and another man later entered the room, he said, and Dawson pulled out a gun and put it in his mouth.
Feroleto said Workman’s DNA was found in bloodstains in the upstairs room and on the basement floor, corroborating his testimony that he had been beaten there. He said Workman’s sneakers were found in the unheated attic, where he testified that Woods forced him to spend the night.
The prosecutor also said Workman’s benefits card was found in a dresser in Woods’ home and his Social Security card was found outside Dawson’s home.
Workman, who gets about $800 a month in Supplemental Security Income and disability benefits for a bipolar disorder, testified that the defendants took the cards and $150.
He said Woods beat him with a cane and poured gasoline on him. The day after his rescue, he was treated for injuries to his face, arm, back and head, as well as for a cracked eye socket.