A PHILADELPHIA man who had avoided conviction in city courts, despite multiple arrests for robbery and other crimes, was sentenced on Tuesday to 37 years in a federal lockup for two gunpoint robberies in the far Northeast in December 2007 and October 2009. U.S. District Judge Anita Brody also ordered John Gassew to pay $7,194 in restitution to two victims.
Gassew, 25, was found guilty in February of two robberies and of using a firearm. He was cleared of one robbery and one gun charge.
Gassew had a defense attorney but represented himself at trial. Defense attorney William J. Honig said in a sentencing memo that he "displayed a maturity and poise that none of us believed he possessed" in defending himself, adding that "everyone should be proud of the way he conducted himself before this court."
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Ewald Zittlau said Gassew testified falsely that he was selling pot in a parking lot in Oxford Village at the time of the second robbery of which he was found guilty.
In that robbery, Gassew held up a 7-Eleven in Fox Chase on Oct. 28, 2009, and struck the store clerk on the head with a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun. He made off with almost $6,000 worth of cigarettes and cash.
Cops spotted Gassew within minutes when a truck he stole rammed a tree, and he ran off, police said. They found a gun in the truck. Cops shot him in the arm before his arrest, an arrest affidavit said. n