A Northeast man who previously had been linked to dozens of violent crimes earned his first-ever convictions last week.
A U.S. District Court jury found John Gassew, 25, guilty of two counts of armed robbery and two counts of using a firearm in a crime of violence, while acquitting him of a third set of the same charges.
Federal authorities have not specified Gassew’s home address. Public court records list him most recently as a resident of the 19149 ZIP code in the Lower Northeast, although earlier records indicate he lived in Frankford during his late teens and early 20s.
Gassew will face a mandatory minimum 32 years in prison and possible life sentence when he appears before U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in May.
After deliberating for about two days, the federal jury on Feb. 1 convicted Gassew of robbing Danny Boy’s Bar at 7447 Torresdale Ave. on Dec. 9, 2007, as well as the 7-Eleven at 8101 Oxford Ave. on Oct. 28, 2009. In the earlier case, he threatened employees and patrons with a gun, authorities said. In the latter case, he stole cigarettes worth $4,854 and $140 cash before beating a clerk with a gun.
Police reportedly spotted him fleeing the Oxford Avenue heist in a stolen truck that he smashed into a tree. As he tried to run, an officer allegedly shot him in the arm.
Federal prosecutors adopted the case because Gassew had beaten dozens of prior felony raps in Philadelphia’s criminal courts. At age 16, following an Aug. 16, 2002, arrest, Gassew was charged as an adult with aggravated assault, carrying a gun in public and numerous related offenses. He was found not guilty following a December 2003 trial.
After that, police arrested Gassew at least 17 more times on dozens of individual charges, but he managed to walk free in each case. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org