Massachusetts Bank Robbery Suspects Continue To Engage Police In High Speed Chases And Win… Larger Criminal Sentences

Happy Monday. How did you start your weekend? I hear a lot of people went shopping. At Altman & Altman, LLP., we moved our offices next door.

In Fitchburg, Massachusetts, a gentleman had a high speed chase with an officer.

As usual, he did not win. He did, however, manage to injure a police officer, which successfully gained him membership into the infamous “Hey, I’ll Bet I Can Make This Worse” Club.

Of course, according to authorities, James T., 36 of Templeton (hereinafter, “Defendant 1”) had not exactly been the pillar of good judgment before the chase. There had already been a little matter of that warrant out for his arrest in connection with the robbery of the Fitchburg Savings Bank in Parkhill Plaza in April 2007.

Last Friday, police say that Detective Perry Pappas saw Defendant1 come out of a Marshall Street house around 1 p.m. and get into a black Saturn driven by a woman. The Detective followed the Saturn in an unmarked cruiser through city streets, and called for marked cruisers to help him with the arrest.

So far, so good.

Marked cruisers arrived around the intersection of Blossom and Crescent Streets. They signaled for the driver of the Saturn to stop.

That did not go over so well.

The Saturn did not stop. Instead, it drove along several more streets in the Fitchburg State College area and then hit another car at Pearl Street and Myrtle Avenue; that car, in turn, struck the cruiser driven by Police Officer Michael Rochette, police said.

The female driver of the Saturn was arrested at the scene and was taken to Leominster Hospital. Officer Rochette and three people in the car his cruiser collided with were taken to Leominster Hospital with what police said are non-life-threatening injuries.

Defendant 1, however, was not done yet.

He ran from the Saturn and was caught around 90 minutes later a block away in the garage of a home on Myrtle Avenue. He was found after a search by police, along with police dog units from the state police and the Westminster Police Department.

Defendant 1 had been charged with the April 20, 2007, bank robbery. Police at the time said he had pointed a semiautomatic handgun toward the head teller and branch manger before money was demanded. He and an alleged female accomplice were arrested a week later. His bail had been set at $25,000. Apparently unsatisfied, he defaulted and a warrant was issued out of Worcester Superior Court.

Any bets as to what the bail conditions will be now…or if he is even allowed bail?

“Hey, Sam”, you ask as you put down your morning coffee. “What ends up happenning in cases like this?”

Well, funny you should ask. Let’s turn our attention over to Brockton, Massachusetts. There, the final scene of a similar drama was played out late last week. There, Robert D., 28, of Randolph (hereinafter, “Defendant 2”) faced the court’s judgment regarding a similar scenario.

According to the Commonwealth, Defendant 2 had robbed a bank back in 2007, apparently another bad year for banks. As he was making his getaway, his vehicle hit a car being driven by an Abington teenager in Whitman.

It was the afternoon of September 17, 2007 and the police were chasing Defendant 2 after he had allegedly robbed the East Bridgewater Savings Bank branch on County Road in Hanson. The police had apparently located him because a resident had called police to report that a man was changing clothes in a van parked in front of the caller’s home. The description provided by the caller matched the description of the bank robber.

And so the chase was on, reaching speeds of over 70 miles per hour.

Ten minutes later, it was ended as Defendant 2’s vehicle smashed head-on into the teen’s Nissan Maxima. Her only involvement had been pulling out of a parking space after picking up some coffee. Suddenly, she saw the chase scene coming toward her.


Witnesses had said she was pinned to the car and her head was bleeding. Firefighters had extricated and rushed her to an emergency medical helicopter that took her to a Boston hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. She missed four months of school after the crash, and said in May she suffered excruciating pain daily.

“Because of his stupidity, what do I get out of this? I’m scarred for life. I don’t get anything good,” she said at the time.

Now, some time later, we may not know if that has changed (for example, if a personal injury lawsuit has been filed on her behalf yet), but we now know some of what Defendant 2 gets out of the adventure.

Last week, Defendant 2 pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, receiving a stolen motor vehicle, operating under the influence of drugs and causing serious bodily injury, and reckless operation of a motor vehicle. A separate charge of operating under the influence of drugs was dismissed. According to the Enterprise News, the Honorable Judge James F.X. Dinneen sentenced Defendant 2 to a 5 year jail sentence. He had been in custody awaiting resolution of the charges and so will get credit for the approximately 220 days thus far.

Likely, however, that will not be all. On November 24th , he pleaded guilty to the bank robbery charges in federal court. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 25.

The likely harsher federal sentence, however, is not much solace to the injured teen and her family, however. This accident had been the second such occurrence in their lives. In 2006, the teen’s older brother was struck by a car while crossing Route 123 in Abington. That collision put him in a coma for 10 days. Two years later, he still wore a leg cast and faced more surgeries. As a result of this accident, his sister has now been hospitalized in Boston for a week with two broken knees, a shattered right ankle, and metal in her right kneecap and right ankle.

While she was still able to graduate high school, she was advised by her doctors to delay attending college because of the injuries.

As Defendant 2 embarks on his 5 year sentence for his state charges, he has only a couple of months’ delay in receiving his federal sentence.

Samuel’s take:

One could make the argument that in cases where law enforcement either know the identity of a suspect, or could simply silently follow them so as not to increase the likelihood of a high speed chase and likely resulting injuries, such would be the better option. Far be it from me, though, to dare to make such an argument.

In any event, that is not the way it usually goes. Further, as we have discussed previously in this daily blog, when the suspect leads the police on a high speed chase, said suspect becomes responsible for any resulting injuries or deaths caused by the chase when his last name becomes “Defendant”.

Granted, bank robbery charges are heavy-duty. Such cases are usually prosecuted in federal court because banks are under federal jurisdiction. Yes, that usually means harsher penalties. However, trying to outrun the police is unlikely to be a particularly successful response. What it does do, however, is give the government evidence of “consciousness of guilt” to present against the accused to judge and jury and also ups the ante in terms of the resulting criminal sentence.

“Consciousness of guilt” evidence is evidence that tends to show that the defendant was aware of his guilt and so tried to escape the situation. It helps the government’s case at trial. Therefore, not only does the enterprise of the chase bring the award of additional charges, it helps the government overcome any weaknesses there might otherwise be in its bank robbery case.

Considering that these high speed attempts at a self-help-pardon are seldom successful, this puts the idea under the “lose-lose” column of criminal justice.

It is hard to imagine that either Defendant 1 or Defendant 2 could be considered lucky by the outcome of their respective chases. However, they are. Someone could have actually been killed as a result of the collisions, which would bring them the award of a homicide charge.

By the way, you may be wondering how a state district court could sentence defendant 2 to five years when it usually cannot pass a sentence of more than 2 ½ years in jail. This is because the court can run sentences consecutive (one begins after the other ends) instead of concurrent (at the same time).

And so we are left, once again, with the same old advice. The self-help attempts of escaping criminal charges seldom work. They usually make matters worse. If you are being investigated or arrested for a crime you either did or did not commit, the advice is the same. Namely, do not fight, engage in flight, attempt to run, or try to out-talk the investigating officers.

Comply quietly and then get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to advise and defend you.

It is, quite frankly, the best bet in getting through the criminal justice cyclone as unscathed as possible.

Samuel Goldberg is the senior criminal defense attorney at the firm of Altman & Altman, LLP. A former prosecutor in New York, he has worked as a Boston defense attorney over 18 years. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network.

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