Jury goes easy on defendants in Olney barkeep's murder

Posted: June 15, 2012

THE FAMILY of a slain Olney bar owner was stunned Thursday when a jury acquitted one man of the barkeep's murder and convicted another man of a lighter charge than prosecutors anticipated.

Relatives were convinced that a store's surveillance video of the sidewalk murder of John Adams, 47, would put gunman Nicholas Roll, 23, and co-defendant Brent Dixon, 33, behind bars for the rest of their days.

But on the second day of deliberations, the Common Pleas jury acquitted Dixon of second-degree murder and all related charges, and found Roll guilty of third-degree murder and two weapons charges. Instead of a life sentence that would have come with a first-degree- murder conviction, the most Roll can face is 26 to 52 years when he is sentenced Aug. 3.

"We will ask for every day of that," said Assistant District Attorney Richard Sax. "I don't really understand the jury's verdict. I'm extremely disappointed in it, but we accept it."

Adams was gunned down about 10:50 p.m. May 2, 2010, on the sidewalk in front of the Olney bar he owned, Johnny's Top Cat Club. He had just walked a female employee to her car when he was confronted and shot by Roll once in the side and in the left arm after he had fallen to the sidewalk.

After the verdict was read, members of Adams' extended family retreated to the hallway, some sobbing in anguish. "To see that just happen, that's crazy. We have videotape showing everything," said Muhammad Don Ray Adams, the victim's older brother. Relatives said John Adams had two children and had owned his bar at 5th Street near Ruscomb for eight years.

"He was a good guy, man. He would have helped them guys if they came in and asked for a job," Adams said of his late brother.

Sax argued that Adams was the victim of a robbery. When Roll pulled his gun, Dixon positioned himself behind Adams to prevent him from running, Sax said.

"I'm pleased beyond belief," Lee Mandell, Roll's attorney, said. He argued that the shooting grew from a weekold dispute between Roll and Adams, not from a robbery. He said Roll shot Adams when he was on the ground because he feared the wounded man was reaching for a gun. No gun was found on Adams.

Michael Farrell, Dixon's attorney, argued that his client was merely present and played no part in the murder. n

Contact Mensah M. Dean at 215-568-8278 or deanm@philly.com.

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