The central figure in an elaborate bank robbery scheme that involved a phoned-in school threat expressed remorse for his crime Thursday in court.
Zachary Dennis, 27, of Latham, spoke ahead of his sentencing after pleading guilty earlier to third-degree robbery in connection with the Jan. 6 heist at the Trustco Bank on West Campbell Road in Rotterdam.
“If there was anything I could wish for in my life, it would be to take back that day,” said Dennis, whose attorney said drug addiction prompted the crime. “I never regretted something more in my life.”
Judge Matthew Sypniewski had the option, as part of Dennis’ plea deal, to sentence him to 18 months to 4.5 years in prison. The judge chose a sentence of 16 months to four years — longer than the recommendations of both the defense and prosecutors — saying the sophisticated nature of the heist required the term.
Sypniewski cited the conspirators’ attempted use of inside information in the robbery, as well as the attempt to use the school threat as a diversion.
Prosecutor William Sanderson had recommended a sentence of 1 to 3 years, based on Dennis’s cooperation and other factors, while defense attorney Sven Paul recommended local jail and longer probation.
Dennis and co-defendant Jeremy M. Pullen, 27, of Albany, were accused of working together to rob the Trustco.
Dennis robbed the bank while Pullen was supposed to stand by in Schenectady to help in the getaway, prosecutors have said.
Police said Dennis phoned in the 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.
Sanderson Thursday confirmed the robbery investigation continues. He said previously that 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.
It’s the investigation into that possible inside information that is continuing, but Sanderson has said no one who was inside the bank the day of the robbery is suspected of wrongdoing.
Sanderson recommended the lesser sentence of 1 to 3 years based on Dennis’s early cooperation, once investigators caught up to him, as well as his apparent remorse, saying he seems to understand the seriousness of what he did.
At the same time, Sanderson noted Dennis was the main actor in the robbery and even threatened the teller in his robbery note, saying he knew where she lived.
Paul argued for a local jail sentence and five years of probation, saying Dennis had never before been arrested and accepted responsibility early on. He also said his client suffered from an addiction to the pain killer oxycodone.
Dennis’s co-defendant pleaded guilty in August to third-degree robbery, also in exchange for a possible maximum sentence of 18 months to 4.5 years. He is yet to be sentenced in the case.
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, he got cold feet and left.
Pullen’s attorney also cited a painkiller addiction as a motivating factor. Pullen formerly worked as a state correction officer and part-time Catskill police officer. He resigned the state job in June 2015, about six months before the bank robbery.
Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.