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Jury acquits, however, on 2 robbery charges

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A jury acquitted Devon A. McLeod yesterday on charges of taking part in a 2005 pawnshop robbery that left two men with multiple gunshot wounds, but found him guilty of later possessing the firearm used in the holdup.

The prosecution alleged that Mr. McLeod, 24, acted as a lookout when Nathan C. Benson entered the A-1 Pawn Shop at 240 Shrewsbury St. on the afternoon of Nov. 21, 2005, shot shop owner David Tal and his employee, William Dyer, and escaped with cash and jewelry.

Mr. Tal was shot three times and Mr. Dyer was shot twice. Both survived. Mr. Benson, 48, formerly of 176 Coburn Ave., pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to 10 to 12 years in state prison.

A Worcester Superior Court jury found Mr. McLeod not guilty yesterday of two counts each of armed assault with intent to murder, armed robbery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, but convicted him on single counts of unlawfully possessing a firearm, unlawfully possessing ammunition and improperly storing a firearm. The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about 90 minutes before returning the verdicts.

The firearm charges stemmed from a Jan. 25, 2006, police search of an apartment at 13 Douglas St., where Mr. McLeod was staying, that resulted in the seizure of a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun and ammunition. The gun was later determined to have been the one used by Mr. Benson in the pawnshop holdup.

Mr. Benson's daughter, Darshia Diaz Benson, testified yesterday that her father, Mr. McLeod and a third suspect in the case, Ricardo Maisonet, were divvying up jewelry in her apartment about an hour after the pawnshop robbery. Another prosecution witness, Milton J. Valencia, testified earlier that Mr. McLeod resembled the man he saw standing outside the pawnshop moments before the robbery.

Mr. Valencia, a former Telegram & Gazette reporter now working for The Boston Globe, said he heard what sounded like gunshots and saw a man come out of the pawnshop and walk off quickly with the man who had been standing outside.

In her closing argument to the jury yesterday, Margaret R. Guzman, Mr. McLeod's lawyer, attacked the credibility of Ms. Benson and said there was no evidence linking her client to the robbery. She pointed out that there were no fingerprints found on the firearm that was later recovered.

"Within an hour of the robbery, within an hour, 3:10 to 4 o'clock, he's sitting at a kitchen table with a pile of jewelry and he's dividing up the jewelry. Is he the lookout? He's the lookout," Assistant District Attorney Lawrence J. Murphy said of Mr. McLeod in his final summation.

Judge Bruce R. Henry revoked Mr. McLeod's bail after the verdicts were returned and postponed sentencing until today. Mr. McLeod was charged with the firearm offenses as a career criminal and will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years in state prison and up to 15 years' imprisonment if the prosecution proves he has the prior convictions to warrant the enhanced penalties.

Mr. McLeod is also facing a violation of probation from his 2002 conviction in a drive-by shooting on North Street.

Mr. Maisonet, 23, of Worcester, who allegedly drove the getaway vehicle in the pawnshop robbery, is awaiting trial.
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