By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Jack GouldTwo years after charging him with robbing a Fullerton video store, the Orange County district attorney's office finally got around to interviewing a key defense witness in the case of Joshua Moore.
Following his November 1998 arrest, DA attorneys prosecuted Moore, known to his high school friends by his rap moniker, Big J-Mo. At his 1999 trial, prosecutors said Moore had been the getaway driver in an ATM robbery in Orange. In the trial's strangest moment, they told jurors that Moore's love of gangster rap indicated an affinity for violence, which made him a likely suspect.
But Sean Barbosa says Moore couldn't have participated in the Fullerton heist. Last month, Barbosa told the Weekly he was working alongside Moore at the Las Vegas Golf and Tennis store in Huntington Beach on Aug. 29, 1998, when, just before noon, two armed suspects robbed the Video Stage store 45 minutes away in Fullerton. The robbers —one of whom roughly fit Moore's physical description—fled in a car similar to one owned by Moore, a blue Geo Prism.
Moore told Fullerton police investigators he was working in Huntington Beach at the time of the crime and that fellow employees would vouch for him. But Barbosa was never contacted by police or prosecutors.
Barbosa said he brought to his May 2 meeting with the DA "all the records from the corporate office and the sales journal for that day—it was all Josh in there."
Cash-register printouts from the golf store suggest that Moore worked as a cashier on roughly a dozen transactions throughout the day, including two major sales—one for $629.98 at 11:31 a.m. and another for $397.95 at 12:02 p.m.—that would have made it impossible for him to rob the video store.
He described his interview with investigators as "tough" and said they asked him whether the store records could have been fabricated by another employee—or if someone other than Moore could have used his employee login number to access the cash register.
"They were asking me why I didn't remember certain things—specifics, [like] what clothes Josh was wearing that day. I told them I didn't remember what clothes he was wearing, but I just know he was there," Barbosa said. "I talked to them for two or two and a half hours. They kind of questioned how come I never came forward [and] how I knew [Moore] was there at the store.
"They thought I was just going by the time schedule," he continued. "But I said, 'No, I remember it.' . . . They asked me, 'How come you didn't come forward during the first trial?' I said, 'That's not my job—that's your job to investigate the alibi.'"
Shortly after the Weekly first published excerpts from an interview with Barbosa, the California Court of Appeals ruled that Moore's months-old request for a new trial should be immediately granted, thus sending Moore's legal case back to the Orange County courtroom of Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Didier, who supervised Moore's original trial. A hearing regarding Moore's request for a new trial is scheduled for June 29.
Moore's Albuquerque-based lawyer, David L. Tucker Jr., said he's encouraged by the appeals court's ruling but said he is prepared for a difficult court battle. Tucker will now have more time to ponder his tactics. On May 5, the district attorney's office was supposed to have filed an official response to Moore's request for a new trial. But that afternoon, just three days after meeting with Barbosa, the DA's office requested more time to file its brief.
"Our new deadline is May 21, 2001," explained Brian Gurwitz, the attorney handling the Moore case for the DA's office, in a May 5 e-mail to the Weekly announcing the delay. "My declaration states in part, 'The people are currently investigating the alibi defense that [the] defendant sets forth in his habeas petition. Our initial investigation has raised a number of questions that must be answered before we determine whether and how to oppose the petition.'"
Gurwitz wouldn't elaborate on whether the meeting with Barbosa had anything to do with the delay.
"I believe it would be inappropriate to comment on the details of an ongoing investigation," he explained. "But I can confirm that we are thoroughly investigating all aspects of this case."