Trial of alleged NBT Bank robber is underway

By GARY LIBERATORE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Brian Brown, 31, of Utica is accused of robbing the NBT Bank in Rome last July, then shooting a sheriff's deputy in the foot following a car chase.

Sixty potential jurors were brought in Monday morning, and by 1:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon, the twelve-member jury and three alternates were seated. After an hour lunch break, both the prosecution and defense gave their opening arguments.

Judge Michael Dwyer released the jury around 3:30 p.m. The first witness in the case, the NBT Bank teller who was approached by the alleged robber last July 29, will take the stand first thing Tuesday morning.

For day one of his trial, Brian Brown wore a white long sleeved dress shirt and jeans, instead of his orange jumpsuit. He is being held at the Oneida County Jail.

Brown faces a number of charges, the most serious, attempted aggravated murder for allegedly shooting Oneida County Sheriff's Deputy Micheal Burger in the foot after a high speed chase.

Brown is accused of robbing the NBT bank in Rome with his cousin Ikiko Brown.

Ikiko Brown pleaded guilty for his role in the crime, being the getaway driver, and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison back in November.

Ikiko Brown also got an additional 15 years for a separate armed robbery of the Bank of America in Utica last May, which Brian Brown is also on trial for in this case as well.

In opening arguments Monday afternoon, Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Kurt Hameline told the jury that Brian Brown left a signature at both banks. The signature, a shell casing from a 40 caliber gun. Hameline says at both the Bank of America on Mohawk Street in Utica in May, and again at the NBT Bank on Black River Boulevard in Rome on July 29, Brown got on the counter of the bank and fired a single bullet straight up into the ceiling to let workers and patrons know he meant business.

Brown's defense attorney John Leonard told the jury that no one from either bank can positively identify Brian Brown as the robber. That's because in both robberies the robber covered his head. At the NBT Bank, the robber covered their head with a white tee shirt they were wearing. At The Bank of America, the robber wore a dark mask.

Hameline says at the NBT Bank robbery, the two cousins brought two vehicles to Rome that day. A stolen Ford Explorer that was parked in the front of the bank, and Brian Brown's Mitsubishi that Hameline says they parked in the back of the bank. Hameline say after the robbery, Brian Brown jumped into the stolen vehicle in front of the bank and Ikiko Brown drove them around to the back of the bank to get away in the Brown's Mitsubishi.

Hameline says the only reason the two were caught, was because someone was out back and saw the two make the switch. That man alerted Rome Police when they arrived of what he saw, and an all points bulletin was put out on police radios to be on alert for a gold Mitsubishi. Hameline says Ikiko Brown, who driving that Mitsubishi pulled over when he saw a police vehicle waiting for them on Route 49 heading towards Utica. Ikiko Brown was captured, but Hameline says Brian Brown took off.

According to Hameline, Brian Brown was followed by a single sheriff's deputy, and when the two vehicles went up a section of Edic Road in Marcy, Brown pulled over near a heavily wooded area. and took his only chance to not get caught for the bank robbery by quote "taking out" Deputy Michael Burger.

Hameline told the jury that Brown intended to kill him.

Brown's attorney John Leonard told the jury there are some things Brown does admit to, but intending to kill the deputy was not one of them.

The trial is expected to last through Friday, possibly into next Monday. The prosecution has a list of at least 18 witnesses. Defense attorney John Leonard told the judge his only potential witness is Brian Brown himself, if he indeed decides to testify.

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