On Friday, a Bristol County Superior Court jury found Joseph (“JoJo”) Noe not guilty in the September 2019 shooting death of former Oak Bluffs firefighter Eric Voshell.
It was an emotional end to the trial, with Noe hugging his attorney, Rob Galibois, and his wife as he left the courtroom. In the lobby, Noe received well-wishes from members of the Outlaws motorcycle club he belongs to before exiting the courthouse.
The jury deliberated for about six hours over two days before announcing they had reached a verdict.
Voshell, 39, died at a Rhode Island hospital following a motorcycle club melee outside JC’s Cafe in Fall River. Voshell was shot in the head and also through the ear, according to the prosecution. Noe also faced two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon (causing serious bodily injury) for allegedly wounding two other people during the melee, but he was also found not guilty of those charges.
Ahead of the verdict, Judge Raffi Yessayan told those in the gallery he understood “emotions can run high” when a jury’s decision is revealed, however he expected a continuance of the restraint that had been exhibited throughout the trial. The audience obliged when the verdict was read aloud. Once outside, several of Noe’s fellow club members put on biker vests, or “cuts,” that hadn’t been worn in the courthouse. Noe hopped on a motorcycle with his wife and motored away with several other bikers.
While the jury was deliberating Thursday, the atmosphere became increasingly tense. Fall River patrol officers and motorcycle cops staged in the plaza in front of the Fall River Justice Center, where the proceeding was held. At least a half-dozen uniformed Massachusetts State Troopers and several plainclothes Fall River Police officers were also in the plaza or nearby. Also outside were a large group of Noe’s friends, family members, and club colleagues. Just before 2 pm, folks gathered to hear the verdict inside Court Room 7. Friends and family of Eric Voshell and his widow sat beside a victim/witness advocate and in front of several State Police detectives from the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement officers. On the other side of the gallery, the benches were entirely taken up by Noe’s supporters. As the judge entered, 16 court officers spread through the courtroom to monitor the proceeding. District Attorney Thomas Quinn III was in the building chatting with folks while the jury deliberated, but he didn’t appear to be in the courtroom to hear the verdict.
In a brief statement after the verdict, Noe’s attorney, Rob Galibois, wrote, “We are grateful that the jury examined the evidence utilizing their collective common sense and applied that to the letters of the law. We also appreciate the court’s careful analysis of all the issues involved with this case.”
A spokesperson for Quinn didn’t immediately return a voice message seeking comment.
On Wednesday during closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Michael Cahillane, speaking from a podium, argued that Noe came to JC’s Cafe looking to cause trouble with members of the Sidewinders — a “rival” club he described as being in “conflict” with the Outlaws.
Cahillane said Noe was “looking to poke the bear.” Galibois, speaking from the edge of the jury box, argued Noe was patronizing JC’s Cafe and not looking for a fight, but was drawn into one. Galibois claimed members of the Sidewinders, along with one or more members of the Black Hand motorcycle club, stormed the JC’s Cafe parking lot and initiated a skirmish. Galabois claimed 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. Furthermore, Galibois argued that his client was surrounded in a “half-moon” fashion by Sidewinders and other bikers, and had a fence at his back. Cahillane claimed that once fighting broke out and Noe produced a gun, the Sidewinders and their allies retreated from the fight, and that Noe shot at them nonetheless.
“He waits until they have turned their backs and they are walking away from him,” Cahillane said. Cahillane said Voshell was shot in the back of the head — ”shot from behind.” And another man had a bullet “lodged behind his collarbone.” Cahillane claimed a third man was also shot. Galibois expressed doubt that the third man’s injury was from a bullet. In all, Cahillane alleged Noe fired off five rounds. Cahillane argued Noe had other options besides the use of deadly force, chief among them simply walking away.
Galibois claimed Noe didn’t menace Sidewinders or their allies with his gun, and only aimed the weapon when he opted to fire it. “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.”
Cahillane argued Noe not only had means of escape, but Noe’s uncle wasn’t actually facing death or serious bodily harm, and deadly force wasn’t justified.
Galibois argued Voshell was “making his way” to the biker swarm over Jonathan Noe 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 or the Black Hand with crimes, despite video evidence that allegedly showed they committed crimes. Galibois told the jury there was a “wealth of reasonable doubt” in the case, and also that Noe acted “appropriately” in defending himself and others.