More News:

August 23, 2016

Philadelphia Judge lowers bail for Torresdale Wawa brawlers

Mother and son defendants could walk out of custody as they await a preliminary hearing in 'riot' case

Fights Courts
torresdale wawa brawlers Mugshots/Philadelphia Police Department

Jonathan Rodriguez and Barbara Bayona were charged with inciting a riot and other offenses for an incident at a Wawa in Tacony on July 29, 2016.

Depending on who you believed Tuesday morning in Courtroom 1006, Barbara Bayona and Jonathan Rodriquez are either a mother-son crime-wave syndicate or two people who were overcharged because a Northeast Philadelphia Wawa brawl video went viral.

While that matter won’t start getting addressed until the duo’s Sept. 16 preliminary hearing, one thing was made clear in court during a brief session that neither got to attend; Municipal Court Judge Francis Shields agreed with the defense attorney motions to lower their bail.

Bayona, 42, saw her bail lowered from $25,000 to $10,000, which means she only needs $1,000 to be released from custody pending trial, according to her attorney, William Ciancaglini. Her 20-year-old son’s bail was lowered to $12,000 (or $1,200 to walk out of custody) at his attorney Andre Martino’s behest.

Both mother and son – who hail from Ditman Street in Tacony – have active charges pending from a 2015 burglary case, and those details led to a discussion between Shields, the defense attorneys and Assistant District Attorney Lauren Stram.

Here’s the backstory: Late in the evening on July 29, a brawl broke out inside the Wawa at 6400 Torresdale Ave. A three-minute video captured by a customer – and later posted to Facebook – showed a group of customers roughing up someone who tried to break up an altercation with employees. Food items were thrown about the store. So were punches and kicks. All totaled, there was $700 in damage.

“She needs $1,000 to get out, and I’m not sure if she has it. I hope she does.” -- William Ciancaglini, defense attorney for Barbara Bayona 

A couple days after the incident, PhillyVoice heard from Shawn Nichol, who said he’d gone into the store to get a sandwich and ended up losing his T-shirt and getting a “few scrapes” after trying to break up the melee. He didn’t regret it because “it was the right thing to do.”

Five days after the incident, the suspects were arrested and charged with riot (intent to commit a felony), conspiracy, criminal mischief, terroristic threats with intent to terrorize another, recklessly endangering another person, disorderly conduct and harassment.

Bayona and Rodriguez were downstairs in the Criminal Justice Center since their preliminary hearing had been tentatively scheduled for the morning. The prosecution wasn’t ready to go forward with the case (a witness was unavailable), so sheriff’s deputies never brought them to the courtroom.

After rescheduling the case, Shields heard arguments for reduction of bail.

Video of the incident posted to Facebook can be seen below:

Ciancaglini went first, calling the case “a gross matter of overcharging” considering it was merely a fight in a store with “no one getting hurt.”

“They’re mother and son, not some sort of crime team,” Ciancaglini said.

“I’m not sure that’s mutually exclusive,” came the retort from the bench.

With a paperwork snafu listing the defendants as 23 and 20 years old, Shields wanted to make sure they were, in fact, mother and son since a three-year gap between the two “would be a miracle.”

Responding to the defense argument, Stram maintained that the higher bail was warranted “given their history of committing [crimes] together,” most notably the fact that they were out of custody while awaiting trial on burglary charges at the time of the brawl.

“It was a seven-minute ordeal (in which people were) demolishing the store and inciting a riot,” said Stram, noting that its gotten worse for Wawa employees in the time since the melee. “Afterward, two Hispanic females returned to the store asking for specific employees by name. They’re so affected by it that police officers do safety checks at that Wawa location.”

She also noted that the duo might have eluded arrest hadn’t the incident been videotaped and their license plate captured for investigators.

The judge ultimately sided with the defense argument – which included Martino’s assertion that Rodriguez hasn’t been able to get medication while in custody – lowering the bail for each.

Afterward, Ciancaglini noted that he couldn’t go downstairs to tell his client of the reduction on account of lingering issues with Criminal Justice Center elevators that injured a pair of employees earlier this month.

“She needs $1,000 to get out, and I’m not sure if she has it. I hope she does,” he said in the hallway outside the courtroom, noting that there was more to the fight than what appeared on the Facebook video. “I wish it was nothing. If she doesn’t have $1,000, bail might as well be $1 million.”

Attempts to reach Nichol, the man who was roughed up during the melee, were unsuccessful later Tuesday morning. In a  previous interview, he said he'd soon be enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

A pretrial conference on the burglary case is scheduled for Oct. 24. Bayona and Rodriguez are charged with receiving stolen property and conspiracy. Bayona faces an additional theft charge,  while assault charges have already been “disposed” of.