LORAIN — A visiting judge in Lorain Municipal Court has thrown out a case against a 73-year-old academic who was accused of firing two shots at his neighbor earlier this month.
William Joseph Moore had faced charges of felonious assault and discharging a firearm in the city limits in connection with the Aug. 3 incident before Avon Lake Municipal Court Judge Darrel Bilancini declined to send the case to a county grand jury during a hearing Monday.
The judge said there wasn’t sufficient probable cause to leave the charges against Moore in place.
Moore’s neighbor, 53-year-old Bob Cisar, testified that he was trimming a hedge that sits on his Lakeview Drive property and stepped perhaps 6 inches onto Moore’s property while doing so.
He said an irate Moore came over to confront him, yelling “I told you I would not warn you again.” Cisar said Moore “bumped” into him and he put an arm up to block him, while lowering his hedge trimmer with his other hand.
He said it was then that he saw Moore reach for a black gun with wooden handgrips. The sight of the weapon, Cisar said, prompted him to flee.
“I pushed him down, I threw the hedge trimmer down and I ran,” Cisar said
Behind him, Cisar said, he heard two gunshots as he called for his daughter to get back inside their house.
But defense attorney Anthony Baker argued that there was no proof Moore fired a gun toward Cisar. He said in the narrow confines between the two houses and the hedge it would have been difficult for anyone to have fired a gun and not hit anything.
“It’s harder to miss everything than it is to hit something,” Baker said while questioning Lorain police Officer Zachary Iannantuono, who testified officers found no bullets, bullet holes or shell casings during their investigation.
Cisar said he never looked behind him so he didn’t actually see Moore fire the gun.
“I had my back turned and I was running,” he testified.
Iannantuono said when police arrived, Moore was cooperative and acknowledged he owned guns, but declined to provide a statement, asking instead for a lawyer.
A gunshot residue test was performed on Moore’s hands, but those results weren’t completed by Monday’s hearing, Iannantuono said. He also said Cisar’s daughter had made an audio recording that police could hear what sounded like gunfire on.
Baker also pounced on what he described as inconsistencies in Cisar’s original statement to police and what he testified to on Monday.
In the initial police report, Cisar told police that Moore walked toward him and that he put an arm out to stop him as he approached.
“Mr. Cisar explained that Moore ended up falling backwards onto the ground, and while he was on the ground, began reaching at his left side with both hands,” Iannantuono wrote in his report. “Mr. Cisar said he believed that Moore was reaching for a weapon, and then saw Moore pull what appeared to be a small gun of some type from his left side.”
Cisar told police on Aug. 3 that as he ran he called out for his daughter to start recording the incident, but on Monday he testified that he was yelling for his daughter to go inside
Cisar said after the hearing that his original account could have been clouded by adrenaline from the incident or that police may have misunderstood his explanation.
Court testimony indicated that there’s a history of bad blood between Cisar and Moore that dates back years, including a criminal trespass charge against Cisar for allegedly trespassing on Moore’s property earlier this year. That case was dropped last month.
“I trim my bushes, he says I’m trespassing,” Cisar testified.
Moore, who said he has academic research privileges at Oberlin College, did not take the stand during Monday’s hearing.
He said afterward that his neighbor has never liked him, something he attributes to his race. Moore is black, while Cisar is white.
Cisar denied that race is a factor for him in the dispute with his neighbor.
Moore, who said he couldn’t comment on whether or not he fired a gun on the advice of his attorney, said he was relieved the charges against him were dropped.
Cisar, who stormed out of the courtroom after Bilancini announced his decision, said later that he thinks Moore should be held accountable for his actions.
“I’m terribly disappointed that they think it’s OK for this guy to crack off some shots,” he said.
Both Cisar and Moore said they are thinking of moving.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.