Lawyers for an East Elmhurst man they contend was wrongfully convicted of a double homicide 13 years ago locked horns with prosecutors Friday over whether a crucial police report containing potentially exonerating evidence was provided to his defense attorney during the initial trial.
Rohan Bolt, who has been in prison since his conviction in 2000, sat quietly through a full day of testimony as attorney Mark Gimpel and Assistant District Attorney John Kosinski argued before Judge Arthur Cooperman. The hearing was scheduled to continue May 8. Other witnesses are expected, including Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal, who prosecuted Bolt’s case nine years ago.
The sole witness Friday was Attorney Dominic Villoni, who defended Bolt in 2000 when he was tried for the Chistmastime murders of Michael Epstein of Douglaston, the owner of an East Elmhurst check−cashing store and off−duty Police Officer Charles Davis of St. Albans, the security guard, during a botched robbery. Bolt was convicted of being one of the pointmen in the robberies and was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. Another man was convicted of pulling the trigger.
Villoni testified that he first saw the police report, which indicates that a key witness did not know Bolt as well as a police detective characterized during the trial, a few weeks ago when Gimpel sent him a copy.
But Assistant District Attorney John Kosinski pointed out that the police report’s designating number, DD−5 279, was included in an inventory letter outlining the contents of the evidence prosecutors were required to turn over to Villoni prior to the trial. Under questioning, Villoni also testified that he had not accounted for each page of the four−inch−thick packet of documents when he provided it to another attorney to make copies for the appeal.
Kosinski also submitted a sworn statement from Villoni stating only that he had searched his records and could not find the document.
“In that affirmation, you never stated you had never seen DD−5 279,” he said.
Villoni testified that he was aware that Gimpel was also working on an appeal based on Villoni’s effectiveness as a defender.
Bolt’s case suffered an early setback at the hearing, when Cooperman refused to hear any testimony about the contents of the police report, choosing to focus on whether or not the report had been provided to Bolt’s attorney in 2000. Gimpel has said that the evident unavailability of the information in the report requires further investigation, given its significance to the case as “Brady material, referring to a 1963 Supreme Court ruling that prosecutors must disclose any evidence affecting the credibility of police officer witnesses.
During Bolt’s trial in 2000, a police detective testified that a witness identified Bolt as a drug dealer nicknamed “Roti.” The other defendants had said “Roti” was one of the two pointmen in the botched robbery of the check−cashing store on Dec. 21, 1996. The police report that Gimpel procured this year indicated the woman, whose name was redacted from the report, pointed Bolt out as her drug dealer, but did not use the name “Roti.”
“My role as a judge ... dictates that I have a hearing so there’s a final determination of facts before I make my ruling,” Cooperman said. “This is not a trial.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cn
©2009 Community News Group
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