John Gassew of Oxford Circle had a long history with Philadelphia police but a shockingly brief history with prison until he met U.S. District Judge Anita Brody on May 15.
Brody ordered Gassew, 25, of the 6000 block of Lovatt Terrace, to serve 37 years in a federal penitentiary for committing armed robberies of two Northeast businesses, one in 2007 and another in 2009.
Before entering Brody’s courtroom, Gassew had been arrested more than 40 times, most for robberies, according to a 2009 report by The Philadelphia Inquirer. Yet, Gassew avoided conviction each time.
In many of the earlier cases, city prosecutors dropped charges against Gassew when witnesses failed to show up for court after repeated hearing postponements.
Knowing that, the U.S. Attorney’s Office adopted his latest case, alleging that his crimes interfered with businesses engaged in interstate commerce. On Feb. 1, a jury found Gassew guilty of robbing Danny Boy’s Bar, at 7447 Torresdale Ave., on Dec. 9, 2007, and the 7-Eleven, at 8101 Oxford Ave., on Oct. 28, 2009.
The jury also convicted him of two counts of using a firearm in a crime of violence. Unlike state courts, the federal system does not offer parole or early release for “good behavior.”
In the federal case, Gassew also was accused of robbing the 7-Eleven at 2634 Bridge St. on Oct. 26, 2009, but that charge didn’t stick.
Two days after that heist and shortly after Gassew robbed the Oxford Avenue 7-Eleven, police spotted him driving a stolen black pickup truck southbound on Oxford at a high rate of speed. When officers chased him, Gassew crashed the truck and started shooting at his pursuers. Police returned fire, wounding Gassew four times. ••EndFragment