A former state corrections officer is now facing possible state prison time himself after admitting Wednesday to taking part in an elaborate bank robbery scheme in Rotterdam that involved a phoned-in threat against a school.
His attorney said afterward that he intends to argue for a lesser sentence than the 4.5-year maximum possible for the charge, saying his client took part after developing an addiction to prescription painkillers due to a knee injury.
Jeremy M. Pullen, 27, of Albany appeared in Schenectady County Court on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree robbery, a felony.
Prosecutors contended Pullen took part in the planning of the robbery and intended to be the getaway driver. But on the day of the robbery, Jan. 6, he got cold feet and left.
In exchange for his plea, he is to receive a sentence of as much as 1.5 to 4.5 years in state prison. Judge Matthew Sypniewski is to decide on the final number at sentencing after hearing attorney arguments.
Pullen formerly worked as a state corrections officer and part-time Catskill police officer. He resigned the state job in June 2015, about six months before the bank robbery.
Pullen’s attorney James Long said Wednesday that both the end of Pullen’s corrections job and his involvement in the bank robbery are traced to his addiction to painkillers.
Long said Pullen suffered an on-the-job knee injury that didn’t require surgery and soon became addicted to the drugs. Faced with drug tests at work, he resigned, Long said. But he continued to use pills he bought on the street.
“We’re going to present to the court the best argument we can that, but for his addiction, he wouldn’t be here” in court, Long said, “and we’re hoping for something that would include supervision, rather than lengthy incarceration.”
Long said Pullen has been in continuous drug treatment since his arrest, including a 30-day inpatient program. He is free on bail. Several family members attended Wednesday’s proceeding.
Pullen’s co-defendant, Zachary Dennis, 27, of Latham, previously pleaded guilty to third-degree robbery and faces a similar potential sentencing range.
Prosecutor Michael DeMatteo said he intends to make recommendations based on each individual’s involvement.
The two were accused of working together to rob the West Campbell Road Trustco. Dennis went into the bank and did the actual robbing, while Pullen was supposed to stand by in Schenectady to help in the getaway, prosecutors said.
Police said Dennis phoned in a threat to a school in an attempt to divert officers away from the robbery location, but investigators used information gleaned from that call to help zero in on Dennis.
Police responded to the school and placed it on lockdown. But a sergeant also suspected something was afoot and held a couple of officers back to cover the other side of town.
Even so, Dennis got in and out of the bank quickly enough to avoid being caught at the scene.
He then headed to the planned rendezvous point, a parking lot behind the county social services building on Erie Boulevard near Interstate 890, where he intended to meet Pullen and switch cars, prosecutor William Sanderson has said. But Pullen didn’t show up.
Sanderson on Wednesday said the investigation is continuing. He said the pair are believed to have targeted that branch with some possible inside information that there was a larger sum of money to be found there than there actually turned out to be.
Sanderson said the investigation into that possible inside information is continuing, but no one who was inside the bank the day of the robbery is suspected of wrongdoing.
Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.