BUFFALO, NY - Mazen Abdallah was killed last year. The Airport Taxi cab driver was found dead in the back of his taxi.
Two Buffalo teenagers are on trial for robbery and murder in the shooting death of Abdallah. Sean Austin and Maurice are on trial together. Prosecutors painted Austin as the ringleader.
During opening statements, prosecutor Christopher Belling said it was Austin's cell phone that was used to call the cab. It is the same phone allegedly used to call for food deliveries. In some cases, the delivery drivers were robbed and shown a weapon. Belling told jurors, "this case is all about bad calls."
Howie and Austin are charged with second-degree murder and robbery. Neither is expected to testify.
Two other teens are charged only with robbery and are scheduled to stand trial in April.
Defense attorney Michael D'Amico represents Maurice Howie Jr. He was asked about DNA evidence in the case linked to his client, the former standout football quarterback at South Park High School. "There are portions of the vehicle that were swabbed where DNA was recovered where none of his DNA was found where you would expect it to be found given the people's case," he said.
The first witnesses to testify were emotional. Airport Taxi Dispatcher Michael Porter was the first to find the cab driver deceased inside the vehicle on Norfolk Avenue in northeast Buffalo. "I lost it, I started screaming," he said on the witness stand.
Zuhair Rizeq, also a cab driver and the victim's cousin, recalled arriving at the scene and opening the back door of the cab. He cried on the witness stand and said, "I seen his hands, he's on the floor, feet bent, face down and blood all over."