A Buffalo man in state court last week described for a jury the 16 hours of terror he endured last December when he was kidnapped, robbed and repeatedly beaten – all because of his drug debts.
The man, a former crack user who admitted spending about $400 a month from his government benefits on illegal drugs, says one captor stuck a gun barrel into his mouth. He described being forced to undergo a tooth drilling at the hands of another attacker, who also doused him with gasoline, beat him with a cane and threatened to kill him.
The victim also was forced to lick his own blood off the boot of one of his attackers, an incident recorded on a cellphone camera and then posted on his Facebook page “for the whole world to see,” a prosecutor said.
The man’s family saw the Facebook posting and contacted police, who freed the victim and arrested three men, initially on kidnapping and assault charges.
Eventually, one pleaded guilty to reduced charges and is expected to testify against the two others, who are on trial before Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia and a jury.
Wesley Woods, 23, and Stephen Dawson, 29, are charged with first-degree kidnapping and two counts of first-degree robbery in the attack on Barry Workman on Dec. 28 and 29 in Woods’ home on Jewett Avenue.
The kidnapping charge carries a minimum prison term of 15 years to life and a maximum of 25 years to life.
Woods also is charged with second-degree assault for the tooth-drilling attack.
Willie Stroud, 24, previously pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery. He faces up to 25 years in prison on each count when he is sentenced in Erie County Court after he testifies and the state court trial is completed.
Workman, 25, testified last week that he was walking to his aunt’s house on Jewett at about 9:45 p.m. Dec. 28 when Stroud and another man stopped him and asked him for $70 he owed Stroud for crack.
Workman, who said he received about $800 a month in SSI and disability benefits for his bipolar disorder, told them he didn’t have any money but would pay when he got his next benefit payment.
He said he continued walking, but then saw Woods, who told him to come with him or that he would shoot him. Workman said he owed Woods $100 for crack and marijuana, although Woods claimed the debt was $800.
Workman said he was taken to a second-floor room in Woods’ home, where Woods beat him with a gun.
Dawson, Stroud and another man entered the room, and Dawson pulled out a gun and put it in his mouth, Workman testified. That’s when Dawson pulled out his cellphone and told him, “I’m going to put this on camera.”
He said Dawson told him to suck on the gun barrel, and then he beat him until he was bleeding.
Stroud recorded the attack with Dawson’s cellphone, then gave the phone to Dawson, who recorded Stroud beating him.
After the beating, Workman testified, Dawson told him to empty his pockets, which contained his benefits, food stamp and Social Security cards and $150 he had set aside to buy gifts for his daughter. He said he handed them to Dawson, who gave them to Woods.
Workman said he was then taken to the basement, and the door was barricaded. When he broke a window, Woods returned and beat him with a cane and poured gasoline on him, he testified.
Later, Woods took him to a bedroom, where another man hit him, and then Woods got a power drill and drilled his front tooth, Workman said. He said there was no drill bit in the socket, but Woods placed the drill on his tooth and squeezed the trigger to start spinning it, cracking his tooth.
“It was very painful,” he said.
Woods then locked him in the unheated attic. When he got up the next morning, he said, Woods took him to another bedroom and locked the door. Woods told him that if he made any noise, he would kill him.
Workman said he later heard noise outside, looked out the window and saw a police officer.
Dawson had told police where to find Workman after Workman’s family alerted police to the beating video on Facebook.
Workman said he opened the window and waved at the officer. He climbed out the window and asked the officer to catch him, but the officer told him to stay put, then came up and rescued him.
Workman went to Sisters Hospital the next day and was treated for injuries to his face, arm, back and head as well as for a cracked eye socket.
Workman didn’t mention the boot-licking incident during his testimony, but Assistant District Attorney John P. Feroleto showed video to the jury. A voice identified as Stroud’s tells Workman he got his blood and DNA all over his boot and orders him to lick the boot clean.
Assistant District Attorney Kristi Ahlstrom also is prosecuting the case.
Prosecutors also showed the video of the gun in Workman’s mouth.
Giovanni Genovese, Woods’ attorney, urged jurors to view all the evidence in the case.
“Don’t let this disturbingly violent video sway you,” he said.
He said the video shows Dawson and Stroud beating Workman.
“You won’t see my client on the video,” he said of Woods.
Paul G. Dell, Dawson’s attorney, called the video shocking and brutal.
“No one deserves that,” he told jurors.
But he said the video doesn’t show the kidnapping or the robbery.
He admitted his client took part in the beating seen on Facebook but said Dawson left after the beating, had no role in kidnapping Workman or keeping him in Woods’ home and eventually led police to the house.
He also noted that Workman didn’t owe Dawson any money.