- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006


A Prince George’s County jury yesterday convicted a Bladensburg man in the fatal shooting of a county police officer in Laurel last summer.

Robert M. Billett, 44, was on trial on first-degree murder and other charges in the death of Cpl. Steven Gaughan, 41. The jury reached its decision after deliberating for about four hours over two days.

“This is an important day,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said. The verdict “sent a strong message that law-enforcement officers cannot be the target of violence.”

Cpl. Gaughan was shot June 21 after county police attempted to pull over a sport utility vehicle, in which Billett was a passenger, for a traffic violation.

But the driver failed to stop, and instead ran two red lights and drove into an apartment complex. Billett then jumped out of the vehicle, and Cpl. Gaughan chased after him. Gunshots were fired, injuring Billett and killing Cpl. Gaughan.

The driver, Rohan Patterson, testified during the trial that Billett pulled a gun and threatened him, saying he would kill him if he stopped for police.

Prosecutors had indicated that they would seek the death penalty if Billett was convicted of first-degree murder. But Ramon Korionoff, Mr. Ivey’s spokesman, said the state no longer will do so. He said the decision was made after consulting with Cpl. Gaughan’s family.

“The family feels there’s a good measure of justice to have the defendant behind bars the rest of his life,” Mr. Korionoff said.

Billett is scheduled to be sentenced today.

No one has been executed for a crime committed in Prince George’s County in more than 50 years, but Mr. Korionoff said that was not a factor in the decision not to seek the death penalty.

Cpl. Gaughan, a 15-year veteran of the force, is the first Prince George’s County officer killed in the line of duty in at least 10 years. He was promoted to sergeant posthumously.

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