Elba robbery defendant reportedly sterling citizen prior to alleged crime
Submitted by Howard Owens on July 1, 2009 - 11:20am
Dennis M. Abrams, one of the three men accused of robbing the M&T Bank in Elba on June 18, was, according to his attorney, a respectable, upstanding, taxpaying citizen prior to the alleged crime and subsequent chase and six-hour manhunt.
Abrams reportedly has no prior criminal record, is employed full time (with a collections agency that is supposedly keeping his job open for him), married and expecting the couple's first child in a month on their fourth anniversary. Abrams is also a foster father to his wife's nieces.
Yet, Dennis M. Abrams, 26, is also accused of using a pistol he bought and registered to put a teller "in fear of her life," according to District Attorney Lawrence Friedman.
In his written confession, Abrams reportedly admits to waiving his gun in the air inside the bank. Friedman said a teller tells a different story. She said Abrams pointed the gun at her head.
Friedman said Abrams admitted to hatching the bank robbery plan and driving his vehicle to and from Elba, after removing the license plates to help avoid identification.
Abrams, and co-defendant Demone D. Dillon, 25, both plead not guilty to three counts each of robbery. The third defendant, Michael J. Wells, 24, appears in court to answer the charges on Monday.
They are both being held on $250,000 bail and $500,000 bond.
Abrams has retained renowned defense attorney Paul Cambria, who is currently also representing Scott Doll, who is accused of killing a business associate in Pembroke. Daniel Killelea appeared today on behalf of Cambria.
With at least a dozen friends and family members, as well as his pastor, present, Killelea tried to convince Judge Robert Noonan to reduce his bail to $25,000.
"I think Mr. Abrams isn't typical of a defendant who stands before the court accused of bank robbery," Killelea said. "He has an actual life beyond the charges currently before the court."
Killelea also noted the Abrams gave himself up within 15 minutes of the manhunt starting and cooperated fully with law enforcement from the moment of his arrest.
Friedman countered that Abrams is accused of being the mastermind, the getaway driver and the man who owned and used a loaded handgun to help commit the crime.
"I'm confident in the strength of the people's case," Friedman said. "Mr. Abrams gave a full written confession. I find it hard to believe that a reputable collections agency would continue to keep him employed."
Noonan said that while he was mindful of Abrams clean background, he had to take into consideration the nature of the crime.
"I'm extremely shocked that a licensed handgun was used by the licensee in such a brazen manner," Noonan said. Noonan said that in 30 years he's only seen a licensee us his own gun in a crime once. "This never happens," Noonan added.
The trio allegedly left the bank with more than $20,000, according to Friedman.
Abrams' uncle, John Abrams, was among the family members in court. He seemed eager to talk about the case, but was advised by Killelea not to speak with the media. John Abrams -- who is reportedly in law enforcement and showed up at the State Police Barracks in Batavia during the manhunt to encourage Dennis Abrams to continue cooperating with the police -- did say there are two sides to the story and more to the case than what has come out so far.
Contrasted with Abrams, Dillon does reportedly have a prior record. He reportedly also has parole and probation violations in his past.