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Rosedale suspect was witness: DA

The convicted felon, Reginald Gousse, 31, of 146-17 230th St., testified against a former cell mate accused of murdering Detective Charles Davis of Jamaica and Ira Epstein of Douglaston outside Epstein's East Elmhurst check-cashing business in 1996. Davis was moonlighting at the store in order to earn extra money for his daughter's Christmas presents. With Gousse's cooperation, his cell mate, George Bell, became the first of three men convicted in the crimes, and prosecutors later sought through legal means to assist Gousse "with a deportation problem" to ensure his availability for appeals or new trial motions, the DA spokesman said."He asked for help with his problem late in 2004 well after he had testified for us, and his request for assistance was not part of his cooperation agreement," the spokesman said.Gousse was charged last month with fatally shooting HSBC bank branch employee James Gottlieb of Garden City South, L.I. Jan. 5 after allegedly trying to steal his business keys, Nassau County police said. Gousse was scheduled to return to court March 9 in that case and could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted.After Gousse's arrest last month in Long Island, Nassau County police said law enforcement officials considered the 31-year-old a suspect in other officer impersonation robberies in Queens and Brooklyn, none of which left the victims physically injured. The only other crime he has been charged with as of Tuesday was the holdup of two female employees leaving CLB Check Cashing on 188-34 Linden Blvd in May. In the case, Gousse pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens last Thursday to charges of robbery, kidnapping and criminal impersonation, the DA said. He must next return to court March 30 and could face up to 25 years in prison for each charge if later convicted.While Gousse's lawyer, Frank Kelly, declined to comment on the most recent charges, he said in any future police lineups, "I believe he will not be identified." In the Queens case, Gousse was charged with stopping a car holding two check-cashing employees while armed and outfitted with police-style clothing and a phony badge, the DA spokesman said. Gousse allegedly stopped their vehicle, driven by the husband of one of the workers, and placed the three in handcuffs before forcing them at gunpoint to get into his car, Brown said. He reputedly took the trio back to the check-cashing office and demanded money, but was only able to get some MetroCards and some of the workers' personal property, the DA said.When the police arrived, Gousse grabbed the older woman's husband and fled, later releasing the man physically unharmed that night, Brown said."The crime was violent and ruthless and has left the victims deeply traumatized," Brown said. Gousse was convicted of robbing a Queens Village body shop in 1992, and in 1997 an immigration judge ordered the Rosedale man deported after he had served his sentence, according to the DA's office. Upon his release, however, the order was not carried out and Gousse was arrested in 1998 on charges of stealing a car and posing as a police officer in an attempt to rob a Staples store. While in jail, Gousse overheard Bell, his cell mate, admit to killing Epstein and Davis. He testified against Bell in 1999, resulting in the DA's office recommending a five-year sentence instead of a 21-year term for the 1998 crimes. Although Gousse pleaded guilty that same year to the crimes, the DA's office asked a judge to postpone his sentencing, a typical approach with cooperating witnesses but one which in effect kept the Rosedale man in bureaucratic limbo. Brown said he did not learn of the deportation order until 2003, and when Gousse asked a judge the following February to change his 1992 conviction to a lesser crime, the DA's office endorsed the switch so Gousse would not have a felony on his record and therefore would not be deported."We did not have a legal foundation to do so once the attorneys absolved the conviction," said Manny Van Pelt, a spokesman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.When Gousse was finally sentenced last March for the 1998 crimes, the DA's office recommended Gousse be released for time served, and the judge agreed. The deportation order was not mentioned in court.Gousse then allegedly robbed the two women in May before allegedly killing the Long Island banker in January. The spokesman for the DA's office said Gousse would be held accountable for the charges filed against him, but "the DA does not regret his handling of the matter."After the Long Island murder, the lawyer for Gousse's former cell mate called a police tip line to suggest detectives look at the Rosedale man.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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