Trio who robbed Amherst bank in September 2011 enter separate guilty pleas in Hampshire Superior Court
NORTHAMPTON — Three people who briefly pulled off a brazen daylight robbery of an Amherst bank for drug money in 2011 each answered for their role in the crime Monday.
Jamie Comeau, 37, of Gardner and Jason Comeau, 38, of Athol each pleaded guilty to one count of unarmed robbery in connection with the robbery.
A third defendant, Kimberly J. Choquette, 30, of Athol had also initially been arraigned on an unarmed robbery charge, but pleaded to a lesser charge of being an accessory after the fact.
The Comeaus are not related, according to Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Michael McHale, who prosecuted all three cases.
Hampshire Superior Court Judge Richard Carey sentenced Jamie Comeau to four to five years in the Cedar Junction Correctional Institution in Walpole. He was the man who entered the Northampton Cooperative Bank branch in Amherst and presented a note to the teller demanding cash, McHale said.
Jamie Comeau’s attorney, Alfred Chamberland of Easthampton, had asked Carey to impose a sentence of three years, considering there were no weapons or violence used during the robbery.
“He’s not a bank robber,” Chamberland said. “He’s a drug addict.”
McHale countered that the robbery was not a victimless crime, noting the teller was so traumatized by the robbery she quit her job. McHale told Carey that Jamie Comeau had a long criminal history dating back to at least 1992 with 51 convictions in 27 cases, including 22 larceny-related charges.
“He will continue to offend,” McHale said.
Jason Comeau was sentenced to three years in Cedar Junction. He was the lookout who waited outside the bank for Jamie Comeau to return, McHale said.
Jason Comeau’s attorney, Joseph Hanofee of Northampton, described his client as hard-working and intelligent, but with a dysfunctional upbringing.
“He’s young enough to get the message,” Hanofee said.
Choquette, who McHale said was the “least culpable” of the three, had her case continued without a finding for one year, during which time she will be on probation and must remain drug- and alcohol-free and submit to random screenings.
According to McHale, Choquette, represented by Jonah Goldsmith of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, was contacted by the Comeaus Sept. 19 asking if she could provide a ride to Amherst so Jamie Comeau could retrieve a check from an auto accident settlement.
The three arrived at the bank branch just before noon on Sept. 20, when Jamie Comeau entered the bank wearing a hooded sweatshirt, ball cap and sunglasses and gave a misspelled note to a teller. It read, “Give me all the money. This is a roggery. No dye packs. No tracers.”
He left the bank with $1,265, including $200 in marked cash or “bait money” used by banks to track stolen bills, McHale said. The three got into Choquette’s car and drove toward Belchertown. During a brief chase after they left the bank, an Amherst police cruiser swerved to avoid another vehicle, left the road and sustained heavy damage from the crash. The trio was finally stopped by Belchertown Police.