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Third Elba robbery suspect enters guilty plea, faces possible 15 years in prison

By Howard B. Owens

The last suspect captured is the final defendant to plead guilty.

Matthew J. Wells, 24, of Buffalo faces five to 15 years in state prison after admitting this morning to his role in the June 18 stick up of the M&T Bank branch in Elba.

The guilty plea came on a morning when Wells was schedule to appear on a pre-trial hearing to determine if his statement following the robbery could be used against him in a trial.

Attorney Thomas Burns said after the guilty plea that his client took into account the substantial risk of going to trial, in which a conviction could mean 25 years in prison.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said the plea bargain accepted by Wells today was made back in June.

Wells didn't give up easily the morning and afternoon of the robbery, either. He led more than 100 law enforcement personnel on a five-hour manhunt through the woods and fields of Batavia and Oakfield before finally surrendering. His co-defendants, Dennis M. Abrams, Jr., 26, and Demone D. Dillon, 25, were captured within an hour of the robbery.

Both previously pled guilty to charges stemming from the hold up. Abrams, the apparent mastermind of the scheme, was looking at up to 25 years in prison, and Dillon, who apparently served as a somewhat reluctant look out, facing three-and-a-half to 10 years.

Wells was the only one of the three to make any real attempt to challenge the state's case, with his attorney filing motions to suppress his statements and for a change of venue. The latter motion was eventually denied.

The case has left many in the criminal justice community shaking their heads. None of the three suspects had any prior adult criminal record, and only Dillon had a youthful offender conviction. All three had jobs and wives or girlfriends. All three men are fathers.

Abrams reportedly sent a text message to his wife before he was captured that read simply, "I messed up."

Friedman's job, of course, isn't to get wrapped up in sympathy for three men who made a bad decision. He's spoken to the victims.

"I spent hours talking with the victims of this crime," Friedman said. "I feel the impact that it has had on these women. With almost 28 years in this office, I've been surprised by the depth of emotion expressed by these women over what they went through in the bank. It was very traumatic. I had one of these women tell me she thought she was about to die. I have no idea what that must feel like."

As for the defendant's lack of prior criminal history, Friedman said, "that's what the pre-sentencing investigation is about."

"My job is to either secure a conviction or get an appropriate plea," Friedman said. "I  think in this case, I've given the court sufficient latitude in light of these crimes and in light of the defendants."

George Richardson

I think all three should get three to five and let them out after 18 months, or so, even less. If they show up as offenders again give them the max with no remorse. Everyone makes mistakes but most people straighten out after they humiliate themselves and their loved ones.

Oct 19, 2009, 6:51pm Permalink
iesha honeycutt

No Problem Howard! I agree With you george. This is a mistake michael has to learn from. And is a lesson learned. I cant stand thinkin bout him being gone from out of his kids life for this long.(i only have lil michael, his son, but he is a good stepdad to my daughter) And even my life.My son thinks about his dad everyday. He comes home from school with pictures that he made for him(he's only in pre-k) and wants to give him. Michael regets every momment of this. This is jus a bad chapter in his life, and he will have to deal with the sentence that the judge gives him. Im hoping that it wont be towards the max (10-15). i hope the judge see that michael has never been in any trouble or is not a hardcore thug. People look at him and thinks that he is because of all his tattoos but that is jus the way he expresses his self. michael is a very loving person. I understand that thats hard to beleive considering the circumstaces. but he is!!!

Oct 20, 2009, 11:13pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

Iesha, you're right i shouldn't judge people by their appearance, I'm just old school about men and jewelry, I guess. Anyway, I too hope that for the sake of his children and you, Michael is able to get through this. I will say a prayer for him and the other 2 young men involved and for the people who were traumatized at the bank. People can and do change, and he will need your support and help. You have my prayers and best wishes as well, for what it's worth.

Oct 21, 2009, 10:23am Permalink

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