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Jury convicts two Buffalo men in kidnapping, beating case

A jury today convicted Wesley Woods and Stephen Dawson in the kidnapping, robbery and beating of a drug addict who pleaded for his life as a gun was stuck in his mouth and he was terrorized for more than 17 hours last December over a debt.

Police rescued Barry Workman after the beating was posted on Dawson’s Facebook page, where Workman’s family members saw it. The victim’s aunt confronted Dawson at his home on Brewster Street, and he led her and police to Woods’ home on Jewett Avenue where Workman was freed.

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 also showed Willie Stroud, who eventually pleaded guilty to reduced charges and testified at trial, forcing Workman to lick his blood off Stroud’s boot.

Woods, 23, and Dawson, 29, were convicted of first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery in the attack on Workman, 25, a crack addict who admitted spending $400 of his monthly government benefits on illegal drugs.

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.

The kidnapping charge carries a minimum prison term of 15 years to life and a maximum of 25 years to life.

Justice Russell P. Buscaglia scheduled sentencing for Oct. 8. The defendants have been held without bail.

Stroud, 24, 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 hearing closing statements and legal instructions Wednesday, the jury deliberated 2½ hours without reaching a verdict, then deliberated another half-hour today before returning the verdict.

The defendants, who did not testify, showed no reaction to the verdict. Their attorneys said they would appeal.

In his closing statement, Assistant District Attorney John P. Feroleto played the 90-second video of Dawson shoving the gun into Workman’s mouth, threatening to shoot him and calling him a police snitch as Workman begged for mercy.

“You can hear the fear in Barry Workman’s voice of being shot,” he told the jury. “You can hear these defendants and Stroud” threatening him.

“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,” he said.

Feroleto dismissed the defense contention that the defendants and Workman were partying and taking drugs at Woods’ home that night and that an argument broke out and Workman was beaten.

“This was not a party,” he said. “This was about collecting a drug debt by holding Barry Workman against his will and robbing him.”

He said Workman owed Woods money for drugs, and 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.

Responding to defense contentions that Workman was an addict who would lie and steal to get drugs, Feroleto said Workman’s testimony about what happened that night was backed by the evidence.

He noted that a police surveillance camera showed Woods catching up with Workman at 9:50 p.m. Dec. 28 at Jewett and Fillmore Avenue as Workman was walking to his aunt’s home.

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. He said Dawson, Stroud and another man later entered the room, and Dawson pulled out a gun and put it in his mouth.

Feroleto said Woods is heard in the video ordering the cowering Workman to put his arms down and Dawson is heard asking Workman when he will get his next benefits payment.

He said the video showed that Workman was being held at gunpoint against his will and was being forced “to do things that no one would want to do.” At the end of the video, he said Workman asked to leave, and the defendants refused.

He said Workman’s DNA was found in blood stains 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, who was assisted by Assistant District Attorney Kristi Ahlstrom, also noted that Workman’s benefits card was found in a dresser in Woods’ home and that Workman’s Social Security card was found near a garbage tote outside Dawson’s home.

Workman, who received about $800 a month in SSI and disability benefits for a bipolar disorder, testified that the defendants took the cards as well as $150 in cash.

Feroleto said the evidence did not support Stroud’s testimony that Workman willingly gave up his cards and that the defendants were partying and taking drugs with Workman at Woods’ home.

Giovanni Genovese, Woods’ attorney, told the jury that his client was not seen in the beating video and that the video showed only an assault, no kidnapping or robbery.

He said the case rested on the testimony of Workman, a crack addict “who lies, cheats and steals to feed his addiction.”

“This case is about a bunch of idiots with too much time on their hands who take drugs,” he said. “This was not a kidnapping. It was a drug party that ended with the beating of the weakest guy there.”

Paul G. Dell, Dawson’s attorney, said his client was not involved in a kidnapping or robbery but was involved in beating Workman because he believed he was a snitch who had brought police to Dawson’s house on a car complaint. He said Dawson posted the beating video on his Facebook page to show what happens to snitches.

He said Dawson left after the beating and was not there for later attacks on Workman.