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Witness describes jewelry store heist

Police investigate the scene at London Jewelers in

Police investigate the scene at London Jewelers in Manhasset following a robbery in broad daylight. (Oct. 14, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Wilson Cosme said he was working security at a jewelry store in the swanky Americana Manhasset Mall in October 2011 when four men burst in with guns and a sledgehammer, and ordered everyone down on the floor.

"I heard the sound of glass smashing," Cosme testified Thursday at the trial of Javon Gamble, one of four men charged with the robbery. "I heard someone say, 'I dare you to move.' "

Gamble, 33, of Bushwick Avenue, Brooklyn, has pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree robbery, criminal possession of a weapon and other charges. Gamble also had served about 15 years in prison on a 1995 robbery and second-degree murder conviction, records show.

Gamble's lawyer, Michael Elbert, of Mineola, said in his opening statement that police and prosecutors botched and fabricated the case, though he wasn't specific about how.

"They're not interested in justice. They're interested in getting a conviction," he said. When Elbert told jurors that Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice was prosecuting the case to improve her conviction record, Judge George Peck told him to stay away from political statements unless he intended to prove them.

In his opening statement in Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola, prosecutor Martin Meaney described a shocking midday robbery at London Jewelers in the mall, a quarter-mile stretch of luxury retailers including Hermes, Tiffany & Co., Versace, Prada, Frette, Louis Vuitton and Fendi.

"When these guys go shopping, they don't go armed with a gold card . . ." Meaney said. "They go armed with guns, with masks, with a sledgehammer, breaking open cases and stealing property."

In all, the men stole about $800,000 worth of high-end watches, Meaney said. They were later found in a duffle bag in a garbage can. No one was hurt in the robbery. The three other men charged in the robbery are awaiting trial.

Meaney said the men fled in a black Cadillac Escalade SUV, which they later abandoned on the Long Island Expressway, running through traffic as they fled. All four were arrested nearby, he said.

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