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Trial underway for bank robbery suspect

Published 9:30 pm, Tuesday, October 2, 2012
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With churlish defiance, a New Milford man who pleaded guilty to robbing a Webster Bank branch in January 2011 sparred Friday, Sept. 28 with the attorney for the former bank teller he testified connived with him to be a "Bonnie & Clyde'' team.

Throughout the second day in the trial of Serena Viccaro, 22, charged as one of two accomplices in the robbery that netted about $2,000, the incarcerated Preston Hanlon, 29, said Ms. Viccaro plotted with him for a couple months.

His former roommate, Micah Theisz, has also been charged as an accomplice. Mr. Theisz's case is pending.

On the day of the robbery, Mr. Hanlon said, he was high on Xanax, a drug he said Ms. Viccaro supplied to him.

A separate investigation that led to another arrest and a pending case into Ms. Viccaro's drug activities was not described before the six jurors and two alternates.

After a lunch break, jurors did see multiple surveillance shots of the actual robbery, including when Mr. Hanlon pulled out what turned out to be a toy gun at Ms. Viccaro's counter. He also stole money from a second teller.

In just over a minute, just after the bank opened, Mr. Hanlon, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and ski mask, pocketed the cash and left. He ditched his disguise and toy gun, hopped on a town bus from which he was dropped off at his apartment. A few hours later, he surrendered after police surrounded his apartment.

While at first Mr. Hanlon testified he "laughed'' at Ms. Viccaro's veiled suggestions he rob her bank because he didn't trust she would be loyal to him, he said she gradually became more bold. She convinced him he could escape with about $40,000, he said.

In reality, Mr. Hanlon left the bank with just more than $2,000 cash, money police retrieved after he told them of its location.

Ms. Viccaro's attorney, Murray Kessler, pondered why, if Ms. Viccaro was his accomplice and had access to a vault where the big dollars were stored, she did not hand over those bills.

Throughout this case, Ms. Viccaro has maintained her innocence.

Prosecutor David Shannon established Mr. Hanlon and Ms. Viccaro had known each other for six years, and in the year before the robbery, they engaged in an on-and-off sexual relationship. They sealed the deal on executing the robbery with a sexual interlude, Mr. Shannon said.

Yet Mr. Hanlon was adamant Ms. Viccaro was never his girlfriend.

Mr. Kessler spent much of his time Friday poking holes in Mr. Hanlon's assertions Ms. Viccaro had initiated the plot.

"So it was in October that Serena said it would be a good idea to rob a bank?'' Mr. Kessler repeated from statements Mr. Hanlon made to police detectives.

"Not in those exact words,'' Mr. Hanlon mumbled.

Mr. Kessler repeated the question. At times, his tone proved sarcastic enough to draw an objection from prosecutor David Shannon and admonishment from Judge James Ginocchio.

The defense attorney tried again.

"There were so many conversations ..." Mr. Hanlon said.

Yet Mr. Hanlon said the crime had not been detailed until the weekend before the robbery, when innuendo turned serious, he said.

Mr. Kessler clearly did not buy his story. Mr. Hanlon scowled.

"I'd appreciate it if you would lose your attitude,'' Mr. Hanlon said at one point.

Mr. Kessler again became more direct.

"What words did she use?'' Mr. Kessler asked.

"We could be like Bonnie & Clyde,'' Mr. Hanlon said.

The trial was scheduled to resume Tuesday, Oct. 2.