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Convicted E. Elmhurst man might be set free

An East Elmhurst man convicted of playing a role in a botched robbery turned double murder may soon be freed after 13 years behind bars.

Rohan Bolt, 47, was wrongly convicted, said attorney Mark Gimpel, whose petition to present evidence potentially proving Bolt’s innocence in the case was approved in Queens Supreme Court Friday.

Judge Arthur Cooperman set the hearing date for May 1.

“Today is a great day for us,” said Bolt’s brother−in−law, Colin Bennett, who remembered Bolt as a kind, helpful man. “He would take my kids for the weekend. They looked at him as a second father.”

On Dec. 21, 1996, five men attempted to rob a check−cashing store on Astoria Boulevard between 94th and 95th streets. Two of the men pushed the employees through the door as they unlocked it, but something went wrong and both employees were fatally shot. The suspects fled without any cash.

Douglaston resident Mike Epstein, the store owner, and St. Albans resident Charles Davis, an off−duty police officer working as the security guard, both died. News reports at the time suggested Davis may have been reaching for his own gun when the shooting began.

Bolt, who owned a Jamaican restaurant in the neighborhood, was arrested four days later. He was convicted in 2000 of two counts of second−degree murder and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.

During the trial, police testified that a witness identified Bolt as a drug dealer nicknamed “Roti,” whom the other defendants had said was one of the two pointmen in the botched robbery. George Bell, who was 22 at the time of the robbery, was convicted of pulling the trigger.

Police did not produce the witness who identified Bolt in court, relying on a detective’s testimony. It took nine years before Gimpel obtained a police report that indicated the woman, whose name was redacted from the report, did not know Bolt’s name.

“The anonymous witness was a crack addict and did not know Bolt’s name,” Gimpel said on the courthouse steps Friday.

In a Jan. 20 court document, prosecutor Brad Leventhal wrote that the police report does not indicate that the witness was a crack addict, only that she bought crack from the dealer “Roti.” Leventhal also said he presented the police report as part of the evidence before the trial in 2000.

But the report was enough to invigorate Bolt’s friends and family.

“This is supposed to be the star witness,” Bennett said. “I just don’t understand.”

Eugennie McIntosh, 63, accompanied Bolt’s mother, who declined to speak to reporters, out of the courtroom.

“I feel very good,” McIntosh said of the judge’s ruling. “Had I the slightest doubt of his innocence, I would not be here today.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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