- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Bladensburg man charged in the fatal shooting of a Prince George’s County police officer was ordered held without bail yesterday during his court appearance via closed-circuit television.

Prosecutors say Robert Mark Billett is a Jamaican citizen and has an arrest record from New York to Richmond. He is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of Cpl. Steven F. Gaughan, 41, after a traffic stop Tuesday.

Mr. Billett, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, appeared from the county detention center, where he sat in a wheelchair. He did not speak, except to acknowledge that he was aware of the charges against him. Throughout most of the hearing, he was either looking down or leaning on an armrest that kept his face out of the camera’s view.

Prince George’s County District Judge Leo E. Green Jr. ordered Mr. Billett held until a July 26 preliminary hearing. If he is found guilty of shooting an on-duty police officer, he could face the death penalty.

Prosecutors have 60 days after an indictment to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said there’s no use speculating on whether he would seek the death penalty until the investigation is complete.

“It’s premature at this point,” he said.

Robin Bright, the assistant state’s attorney prosecuting the case, said Mr. Billett has no family in the area, no ties to the community and no evidence that he has ever been employed anywhere in the country.

She said Mr. Billett has been arrested on a handgun charge in New York and on felony charges of conspiracy to transport and conspiracy to distribute marijuana in Hanover County, Va. At the time of the Virginia arrest in 2001, he listed his residence as Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ms. Bright said he also had been arrested in Jamaica.

Public defender Joseph Niland, who is representing Mr. Billett, said his client had not been convicted of the charges in New York or in Virginia and was in the United States legally.

“As far as I know, this individual doesn’t have any felony convictions,” he said.

A police spokeswoman in Jamaica said Mr. Billett was convicted of unlawful wounding in 2001, but he appealed the conviction and the case was dismissed. She said he had a couple of other lesser infractions on his record dating back many years.

“He’s not wanted in Jamaica,” she said.

Asked whether Mr. Billett should have been in the United States given his prior arrests, Michael Gilhooly, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said those decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

He said ICE has a file on a permanent resident from Jamaica named Robert Mark Billett, but immigration officials want to make certain it is the same Robert Mark Billett who is in police custody.

“We have requested a file on a Robert Mark Billett from our national records center,” Mr. Gilhooly said. “That file is en route to our Baltimore special agent in charge’s office.”

He said ICE has reached out to Prince George’s County police with offers of assistance, and he offered the agency’s deepest sympathies to Cpl. Gaughan’s family.

The incident on Tuesday began about 11 a.m. when Cpl. Gaughan and his partner were investigating the theft of all-terrain vehicles in Laurel. The officers recognized the driver of a green Ford Tahoe and decided to follow it.

They called for a marked car to make a traffic stop, but the driver refused to stop. The passenger, identified as Mr. Billett, appeared to throw something out the window before the Tahoe stopped at an apartment complex in the 11700 block of South Laurel Drive.

Mr. Billett fled the vehicle, shooting at the three officers, who returned fire. Cpl. Gaughan was hit in the arm and the shoulder and died from his injuries a few hours later. Mr. Billett was hit in the arm, the leg and the side.

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