Noe’s fate in jury’s hands

Jury to decide whether Oak Bluffs firefighter Eric Voshell was murdered in Fall River.

Joseph "JoJo" Noe confers with his attorney Rob Galibois. -Rich Saltzberg

A Bristol County Superior Court jury was deliberating a murder charge against Joseph (“JoJo”) Noe for the September 2019 shooting death of Eric Voshell as The Times went to press Wednesday. Voshell, a former Oak Bluffs firefighter, was 39 years old at the time of his death. 

Voshell died at a Rhode Island hospital following a motorcycle club melee outside JC’s Cafe in Fall River. He was allegedly shot in the head. Noe also faces two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly wounding two other people during the melee. 

After closing arguments Wednesday morning, the jury was given its instructions Wednesday afternoon and entered deliberation. 

In the courtroom at the Fall River Justice Center Wednesday, seven court officers patrolled both sides of the courtroom. A number of State Police officers were in the audience, as was Voshell’s widow. Outside, uniformed Fall River Police watched over motorcycle club members as they came in and out during breaks in the proceeding. Unlike when Noe was released on bail at the same facility, the bikers didn’t wear leather vests or “cuts” with club insignia. 

Noe was released on $50,000 bail in September 2020, after being held since the shooting. He was greeted by several members of his motorcycle club outside the courthouse upon his release. 

In closing arguments Wednesday morning, Noe’s attorney, Rob Galibois, argued his client was patronizing JC’s Cafe, and wasn’t looking for a fight, but a fight came to him. Galibois said Noe, a member of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, wasn’t sporting attire associated with that club while at the bar. Nonetheless, Galibois said, members of another club, the Sidewinders, along with one or more members of the Black Hand Motorcycle Club, stormed into the parking lot of the bar and began a fight. Galibois said Noe saw his uncle, Jonathan Noe, “swarmed upon” by bikers who had weapons such as a collapsible baton, a ball-peen hammer, brass knuckles, and other implements. Not only did Noe observe his uncle getting beaten, but Galibois argued that Noe himself was surrounded by a “half-moon” of belligerent bikers, and had a fence at his back. Galibois said despite the dangerous situation, Noe didn’t menace Sidewinders or Black Hand members with his handgun, and only leveled it when he was going to fire.

“He is literally surrounded by people with weapons coming at him,” Galibois said. “He kept that gun down. It’s only when his uncle is literally getting beaten about the head — you don’t have to wait for someone to die to start shooting. You don’t have to wait until they actually start sustaining brain injuries to justify the shooting.”

Galibois said Noe was lawfully protecting himself and others from death or serious injury, and asked the jury what would have happened if Noe didn’t have a firearm that night. 

“Eric Voshell and 21 of his friends, brothers from that clubhouse, made their way down to JC’s with one mission in mind, one, attack the enemy,” Galibois said.

Galibois argued that evidence showed Voshell was “making his way” to the scrum with a pipe in one hand and a helmet in the other. 

Galibois mocked the government for not charging any of the members of the Sidewinders with crimes, despite video evidence that allegedly showed they committed crimes. He described the prosecution’s case and the investigation behind it as weak and selectively focused. 

Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Michael Cahillane argued that Noe came to JC’s Cafe, an establishment he argued was a Sidewinder hangout, looking to cause trouble, “looking to poke the bear.” He questioned why Noe would go to such a place otherwise, and said the Outlaws and the Sidewinders are “rival clubs, and there was an ongoing conflict between the two.”

Cahillane said Noe had the choice to “walk away” from the fight, but didn’t. 

Cahillane alleged that once fighting broke out and Noe produced a gun, the Sidewinders receded from the fight, and that Noe then shot at their backs. He argued Voshell was shot in the back of the head. And another man had a bullet “lodged behind his collar bone.” Cahillane argued a third man was also shot. However, Galibois expressed doubt that the third man’s injury was from a bullet. In all, Cahillane alleged Noe fired off five rounds. Cahillane said Noe had other options besides the use of deadly force. He also questions how injured Noe was, calling what he sustained “bumps and bruises.” Cahillane told the jury Noe’s actions met the criteria for murder. 

Ahead of closing arguments, Superior Court Judge Raffi Yessayan told Noe it was his right to testify in his own defense. Noe declined. 

A year before his death, Voshell was in a serious motorcycle accident on the Vineyard. As The Times previously reported, former Oak Bluffs Fire Chief John Rose described Voshell as a “close friend,” and was dismayed by the motorcycle accident.

The Sidewinders paid respect to Voshell by showing up on the Vineyard in numbers for his funeral in September 2019. The funeral drew a large local and State Police presence.