Bank Robbery Suspect Was Subject Of A U.S. Prosecutor's Warning In 2008

The Hartford Courant

Brendan A. McGarrett, the Massachusetts man accused of robbing a Bristol bank, shooting at pursuing police, invading a home and taking a Farmington woman hostage Tuesday, was released from prison in November - just a few months after a federal prosecutor warned a judge that letting him out would be "a recipe for disaster."

McGarrett, 44, of Northampton, Mass., has an extensive felony record for armed robberies and other violent crimes. He has served years in state prison in Massachusetts and South Dakota and more than five years in federal prison for violating federal firearms laws.

McGarrett was arraigned Wednesday in Superior Court in Hartford on two counts of attempted capital felony for allegedly shooting at two police officers, home invasion, first-degree kidnapping with a firearm, first-degree robbery, theft of a firearm, attempted first-degree larceny, second-degree larceny, criminal use of a firearm, carrying a weapon in a motor vehicle and criminal possession of a pistol.

The Smith & Wesson 9mm semiautomatic pistol that police recovered from McGarrett was reported stolen in Cromwell Oct. 26, 2008, police said.

McGarrett, looking nervous and intense, was surrounded by judicial marshals as he was led into court. He wore a white jumpsuit, which police gave him after they seized his clothing to test for gunshot residue. His hands were shackled behind his back. He briefly nodded to his sister and a friend in the gallery, who had traveled from the Springfield area to be in court.

A second man, Richard Gordon, 34, of Winthrop, Mass., was arraigned on a charge of interfering with police. Police say he was with McGarrett during the Bristol bank robbery and later eluded police during their pursuit.

Gordon, 6 feet 4 and muscular, towered over the marshals surrounding him. His white jumpsuit, apparently too small, had ripped in several places.

Additional warrants related to the Bristol bank robbery, charging both men with first-degree robbery, first-degree larceny and other charges, were signed late Wednesday afternoon. Bristol police Lt. Richard Brown said the warrants will remain sealed until they are served.

McGarrett's bail was increased to $3 million from $2.5 million, and Gordon remained in custody, with bail at $250,000.

At the arraignment, Assistant State's Attorney Carl Ajello said Gordon has faced 44 charges in Massachusetts, leading to a 2007 conviction for conspiracy to commit armed robbery and arrests for assault and robbery in 2005.

Gordon's public defender, Mary-Elizabeth Ahern, said, "He denies any involvement in this incident."

Ahern, who also represented McGarrett on Wednesday, said McGarrett has a history of psychiatric illness and is taking Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication. Judge Carl E. Taylor ordered that he be held under a psychiatric watch.

After the hearing, Kerry McGarrett, his sister, said, "I'm just here to let him know we love him." She declined further comment.

About a year ago in U.S. District Court in Springfield, a federal prosecutor argued against McGarrett's early release from prison because of his violent record.

"Releasing Mr. McGarrett to the street now, or any time soon, is a recipe for disaster," Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Newhouse told Judge Michael A. Ponsor on May 7, 2008. The judge was resentencing McGarrett after his 115-month sentence on federal weapons charges was found to violate federal sentencing guidelines. The weapons charges stemmed from McGarrett's use of a sawed-off shotgun while robbing a convenience store in Palmer, Mass., in July 2002.

"We would stand by the comments made at the time of sentencing," Newhouse said Wednesday afternoon.

At the time that hearing occurred, McGarrett had served 78 months of that sentence and had participated in prison rehabilitation programs. The judge gave him credit for his effort, against Newhouse's recommendation, and reduced McGarrett's sentence to 87 months, which enabled him to leave prison in November and begin three years of federal probation.

In arguing against McGarrett's early release from prison, Newhouse highlighted for the judge McGarrett's criminal history in Massachusetts and South Dakota.

That record dates to at least March 1991, when McGarrett, then 26, kept his then-girlfriend locked in a room for two hours and repeatedly beat her. He was convicted of two armed robberies in South Dakota in 1994 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was paroled in February 2002.

On July 11, 2002, McGarrett used a sawed-off shotgun to rob a convenience store in Palmer, Mass. Police pursued McGarrett into neighboring Belchertown, where McGarrett abandoned his car and fled on foot. He turned himself in the next day. State authorities dropped the case after federal authorities indicted McGarrett on the weapons charges in the store robbery.

McGarrett pleaded guilty to those charges and was sentenced in July 2004 to nine years and seven months in prison. It's that sentence that was reduced last May to seven years and three months and prompted the warning from the federal prosecutor.

McGarrett was still on probation Tuesday when, police say, he and Gordon robbed a Webster Bank branch in Bristol, hopped into a white van and led Bristol and Farmington police on a high-speed chase along Route 6. Twice, police charge, McGarrett fired his semiautomatic pistol at pursuing officers before ditching the van he was driving behind St. James Episcopal Church on Mountain Road near Farmington center. Later, police said, McGarrett took 70-year-old Marieanne Schadler hostage and forced her into her home. Moments later police rushed Schadler's home and took McGarrett into custody.

McGarrett told federal agents who interviewed him at Farmington police headquarters that he robbed a bank with Gordon, whom he met at a federal halfway house in Massachusetts, according to court records released after the arraignment.

McGarrett claimed he was in the passenger seat while Gordon was driving and that they both fired their guns from the van during the pursuit, although McGarrett said he wasn't shooting directly at police, the records say.

In court Wednesday, Ajello said that as officers closed in, McGarrett was "yelling to police he was unarmed," but Schadler warned them that he had a gun.

Gordon remained on the lam until about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, when Farmington police Sgt. Tim McKenzie spotted him jogging along Route 6 near Farmington Valley Equipment. Gordon was wearing jeans but no shirt. Officers swooped in and arrested him.

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