Jury seated in trial for alleged gunpoint robbery of Hobart and William Smith Colleges student
CANANDAIGUA — Opening statements in the trial for the Geneva teens accused of robbing a Hobart and William Smith Colleges student at gunpoint are set to commence in Ontario County Court on Tuesday.
Jemar M. McCall, 19, and a 16-year-old, not identified due to his age, face up to 25 years behind bars if the jury, selected Monday, convicts the pair of first-degree robbery, a class B felony.
The trial for the two teens will take place jointly before Judge William Kocher, with McCall being represented by attorney Gerald Forcier and the 16-year-old defended by lawyer Robert Tucker.
Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo will be prosecuting the case.
The robbery is alleged to have taken place during the early morning hours of Aug. 26 on the Hobart and William Smith Colleges campus. The teens are accused of displaying a handgun to the student and then fleeing with the individual’s cellphone, according to Geneva police officers. No injuries were reported.
Based on court documents, an individual, alleged to have spent time with the defendants the day before the robbery, informed an investigator with the Geneva Police Department that the two had made reference to carrying out the crime beforehand. The same witness also made claims that he saw McCall and the 16-year-old after the robbery at which time they allegedly admitted to stealing an iPhone from an individual, court documents state.
A search warrant executed by police allegedly turned up the stolen phone as well as masks in the possession of the defendants.
McCall and the 16-year-old had already been a focus of the public eye following an unrelated crime alleged to have occurred a couple months prior to the reported robbery.
At around 2:50 p.m. June 6, Geneva police officers received multiple calls regarding a disturbance involving several people on the property of Geneva General Hospital. The incident involved a person being assaulted and then robbed at the North Street location, police alleged.
Within 10 minutes of that incident, police reported responding to another disturbance nearby that was breaking out on the street, as well as in driveways and lawns that involved more than 50 people.
Lt. Eric Heieck, of the Geneva Police Department, described the incident as a free-for-all that was directly related to the assault and robbery on North Street moments before.
No weapons were found, no property damage was reported and no police were injured during the incident. However, it was reported that at one point a police car was surrounded by an aggressive crowd who were kicking the tires of the vehicle.
During the course of the incident, which was under control within 30 minutes, several young people suffered minor injuries.
The scope of the disturbance was allegedly explored through video of the situation recovered by police. Two days later, five Geneva High School students, including McCall and the 16-year-old defendant, were arrested and charged with first-degree riot, a class E felony.
Heather Swanson, a spokeswoman for the Geneva Centeral School District, said shortly after the incident that members of the Geneva Police Department arrested the students inside the school.
The arrests of the teens, all black youths, created a movement in Geneva organized by the local group Tools for Social Change, who assert that the arrests hinged largely on the youths' skin color. Members of the activist group appeared in Geneva City Court during early-on appearances by the youth. The group also organized a “Black Lives Matter” rally at Bicentennial Park in Geneva on July 21 that was attended by more than 100 people.
Rally participants called for the charges against the teens to be dropped.
“We stand in solidarity today, but we also stand here for a fight of our own,” Natalie Knott, a member of Tools for Social Change, said during the peaceful showing. “For the fight of our own children who are current victims of a biased and broken law enforcement structure and culture. We are here to demand that the Geneva police and the Ontario County District Attorney’s Office drop the charges against our five children who are being charged unjustly with felony rioting.”
McCall and his accomplice were free from the Ontario County Jail on $5,000 bail in connection with the riot when they were accused of participating in the armed robbery in August.
As the case developed, the defendants were offered a sentence from the Ontario County District Attorney’s Office that included 10 years behind bars for an admission of guilt. The sentence would have also satisfied the riot charge. However, McCall and the 16-year-old denied the offer, which was described as extreme by Forcier.
In addition to the charge of first-degree robbery, the pair face a charge of second-degree robbery, a class C felony. The trial, expected to take a week, does not involve the pending riot charge, which will be handled separately, according to Tantillo.
None of the 12 jurors and two alternate jurors selected to hear the case on Monday are black.
The defendants are in the Ontario County Jail on $30,000 cash bail or $60,000 bond pending the trial’s outcome.