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Oakland store owner won't press charges against accused 'Spider-Man' robber

| Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, 10:12 a.m.
photo courtesy of WPXI
Johnathan Hewson, 21, of Oakland was arrested in connection with an attempted robbery in Oakland. Prosecutors withdrew robbery charges against him Tuesday.

An Oakland store clerk who thought a college student disguised as Spider-Man was robbing him said he didn't want a “silly mistake” to scuttle the young man's career aspirations and declined to testify against him.

Bob Patel, who works at Atwood Xpress, said he didn't want to pursue the case after learning more about University of Pittsburgh senior Jonathan Hewson, 21. Prosecutors withdrew the robbery charge against Hewson.

“When somebody comes in, in the middle of the night, wearing a Spider-Man suit and asking for money, I'm thinking it's a robbery,” Patel said. “He just made a mistake.”

Police said Hewson walked into the store at 1:10 a.m. on Sept. 20. Patel told police Hewson asked him, “How much money you got?” before fleeing when Patel pulled out a stun gun.

“He's a college student,” said Patel, 23. “I don't want to ruin his career. He's on his last year of college, and he's going to a good school. He just made a silly mistake.”

Officers caught Hewson in costume a few blocks from the store and arrested him.

It's not unusual for prosecutors to withdraw a charge if the victim doesn't want to proceed, said Mike Manko, spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office.

“Each case is different, but in this instance, without the testimony of the victim, we have no way of moving forward,” Manko said.

Pitt suspended Hewson from classes because of his arrest, said his attorney, Mike Santicola. He plans to get his record expunged and return to school as soon as possible, Santicola said. Hewson is studying finance and economics, according to Pitt's online directory.

“It was, I would say, a college prank gone awry,” Santicola said. “I think cooler heads prevailed today. ... Spider-Man is not a robber.”

Hewson was held in jail under a $50,000 bond but Santicola said he expected him to be released on Tuesday.

Friends said Hewson was known around his neighborhood and at a rock climbing wall for wearing the costume.

“I think the Spider-Man outfit is going to be kept by the commonwealth and destroyed,” Santicola said, adding his client didn't want it back. “Believe me, the last thing my client is going to be doing is dressing up as Spider-Man.”

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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