COLUMBIA – A mostly white jury panel intently watched surveillance footage showing a black Chevy sedan with wide-open Lamborghini-style wing doors as it rolled slowly through the parking lot of a Break Time gas station at 110 E. Nifong Blvd. The footage was shown in the trial of Tony Lewis on Tuesday morning.
In the video, other cars circled the lot, some with all four doors wide-open, and the driver's and occupants' arms and legs hanging out the doors.
- Tony Lavelle Lewis, 27, of Boonville, is being tried for second-degree murder and second-degree robbery in connection with the 2010 shooting death of Aaron Hobson.
- Hobson, of Wichita, Kan., was beaten, robbed and shot in the parking lot of the Break Time convenience store at 110 E. Nifong Blvd. on Oct. 23, 2010. He was 22.
- Lewis is one of eight defendants charged in connection with this case.
- Six of the defendants have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from Hobson’s murder. Darris Peal, the only other defendant to go to trial, was found guilty of second-degree murder.
Aaron Hobson was the driver of that black Chevy, and as he drove through the parking lot on Oct. 23, 2010, just after 1:15 am, he clutched a large stack of money in his hand, according to the testimony of state’s witness Floyd Morgan. Morgan was in the front passenger seat of the Chevy as it crept through the lot.
Morgan testified that he and Hobson were "showing off flashy stuff," which prosecutors defined as "stunting." Morgan said they were driving around with their wing doors open, music up loud, flashing money around.
Moments later, Morgan saw a group of black males approach the driver side of Hobson's car. According to Morgan, one of the men, who had dreadlocks and was wearing a white T-shirt, was brandishing a handgun.
Morgan dove from the car and began to run. As he ran, he heard gunshots ring out behind him, according to his testimony. Morgan testified that he didn’t remember any other details about the group of men, nor did he see Hobson get attacked or shot.
"I wasn't thinking, I was in shock," Morgan said. "I just tried to get out."
In his opening statement, Boone County Chief Prosecutor Dan Knight described Tony Lewis' alleged role in the robbery and murder of Hobson. Knight tied Lewis to Daron Peal, who Knightdescribed as the gunman, as well as to the other six co-defendants. Lewis, who is from Boonville, is being tried for second-degree murder and second-degree robbery
Many of the defendants were "dressed identically" in oversized white T-shirts and blue jeans, Knight said.
As some members of the group approached Hobson's car that October night, Lewis stood back at first, according to Knight's opening statement.
Lewis was "standing still as a statue, watching everything that went on," Knight said.
But that stillness only lasted for a moment before Lewis advanced, the prosecutor said.
"His attention was drawn to money," Knight said.
Lewis was drawn into the scuffle and ended up being the closest person to Hobson at the moment he was shot Knight said.
In her opening statement, defense attorney Jennifer Bukowsky offered a different opinion of what happened that autumn night. According to Bukowsky, Lewis' role in the incident was minimal.
"Tony Lewis did not shoot Aaron Hobson, he did not touch Aaron Hobson," Bukowsky said.
According to Bukowsky, Lewis only knew one of the co-defendants before that night, his cousin Leo Roland. She said Lewis was not friends with the other co-defendants and rarely hung out in Columbia.
"You'll see Tony, the out-of-towner, following his cousin around," Bukowsky said referring to video surveillance from the Break Time parking lot.
Lori Simpson of the Columbia Police Department was one of the first officers on the scene after shots were fired at the Break Time. Simpson testified that she saw individuals running from the parking lot and followed two black males who got into a dark green sedan.
According to her testimony, which is bolstered by police cruiser footage, Simpson stopped the two men, who turned out to be Tony Lewis and his cousin Leo Roland.
Simpson and another officer searched Lewis, Roland and the green sedan. After finding no weapons or anything to tie the pair to the shooting, Lewis and Roland were allowed to go.
At the trial Tuesday, Simpson recalled that during the pat down of Lewis and Roland, she felt wads of money. This testimony is a crucial piece of evidence for the prosecution because Lewis is being tried for his role in robbing Hobson.
In a tense cross-examination of Simpson, Bukowsky established that Simpson had failed to include reference to the wads of money in her original report.
Bukowsky suggested that it was only after reviewing video at the prosecutor’s office in April 2011 that Simpson revealed this detail — months after the night of the shooting.
"I thought I had put it in there, but I didn't," Simpson said about her report when probed by Knight during redirect.
Simpson said that the omission was simply an oversight.
Lewis' trial is taking place in the Boone County 13th Circuit Court, and it is expected to last through Saturday.