Despite lengthy rap sheet, NE man earns first conviction

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

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