BRATTLEBORO -- Three Brattleboro men are accused of stealing money from a Ledgewood Heights apartment at gunpoint Monday night, with one of the victims later telling police that she feared for her life.
Arraigned Tuesday were Robert J. Brennan, 33 of Main Street; Cameron Waite, 25, of Spring Street; and John D. Winter, 30, of South Main Street. Each entered not guilty pleas to multiple felonies in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.
Judge Katherine Hayes set bail at $20,000 for Brennan, $10,000 for Winter and $5,000 for Waite. The judge dismissed an attempt by Winter's attorney to minimize his client's alleged role in the incident.
"The accounts given by the three gentlemen who are charged here are significantly inconsistent with one another and confusing," Hayes said, while adding that, based on police affidavits, "it appears that each of these gentlemen had an important role to play in this plan."
Brattleboro police responded to the apartment just after 9:30 p.m. Monday after receiving a report that a man had been robbed at gunpoint.
The victim, Michael Williams, told officers that he heard a knock at his door, opened it, and "Brennan entered with a gun in his right hand pointed at him and telling him to get on the ground," according to an affidavit filed by Officer Adam Petlock. "Williams stated that Brennan hit him in the back of (the) head to knock him to the ground.
Brennan then "sat on top of him with the gun pointed at the back of his head," court documents say.
Waite entered, wearing a ski mask and "clear hospital gloves," and told the victim to "just lay down, and everything will be all right," the affidavit says.
Winter entered the apartment and warned, "Shut up, keep your mouth shut. This has nothing to do with you," the affidavit says.
The victim's fiancee also was in the apartment and lay on her stomach on a couch during the incident. The woman told police that, when she promised the men "that they would get them all their money and whatever they want," Waite put away duct tape he had been holding.
The men asked for pills and money, court papers say, with Waite and Winter searching downstairs and taking cash from the woman's wallet. The men also searched upstairs, where there were children, before deciding "that they had all they were going to get," the victim told police.
The accused robbers all were familiar with the victim.
"Williams stated that Waite and Winter removed their masks once he started calling them by name and identifying them," the affidavit says. "At first he thought this was a joke, since he knew all three males. He stated that he was scared and he wanted this all to be over."
Williams also told police that he formerly bought marijuana from Brennan and Winter, and he said Waite was aware that he takes prescribed medications.
The men left the apartment on a path leading to Fairview Street. Brennan was arrested on Elliot Street, and the other two suspects were arrested when they were spotted walking toward Brennan, court documents say.
Each man spoke with police, providing different accounts of the evening:
-- Winter told investigators that he had arranged to buy marijuana from Williams, but he claimed the robbery commenced without his consent or prior knowledge when he, Waite and Brennan arrived at the apartment.
At one point, Winter told police, Brennan pointed a gun at him and declared, 'You're not going anywhere." However, court documents also say police found a plastic bag containing marijuana and $105 in Winter's pockets.
-- Waite denied being present for the Ledgewood Heights incident, though he did acknowledge meeting up with Winter earlier to buy marijuana, the affidavit says.
-- Brennan initially denied involvement, then claimed in a later police interview that "Winter approached him at his residence and asked if he wanted to help him rob Williams."
At the victim's apartment, Brennan told police, "Winter went upstairs to get some 'bud' and took some money," the affidavit says. "Brennan advised that they were wearing masks when they entered the residence, but later took them off."
Brennan first denied possessing a weapon, documents say, but then told an officer that the gun could be found in a red trash can on Belmont Avenue. He also said he had left his mask, a glove and his shirt in some bushes.
Police said they found a black BB gun that resembled a semiautomatic pistol from the Belmont Avenue trash can and also recovered a camouflage face mask, a black leather glove and a brown shirt in some brush on Pleasant Street.
At arraignment Tuesday, Windham County Deputy State's Attorney Susan Cay argued that "there was a common scheme and plan" that united the suspects.
Cay asked Hayes to impose no-contact rules among the suspects and between the suspects and victims, and she also requested that bail amounts remain the same as those that had been set when the men were arrested.
Hayes agreed to do so for Winter and Waite but reduced Brennan's bail from $25,000 to $20,000.
Brennan is charged with assault and robbery with a weapon; burglary carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon; aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; and simple assault attempted by menace.
Winter faces two counts of aiding in commission of a felony and simple assault attempted by menace. And Waite is charged with two counts of aiding in commission of a felony.
The suspects have a varied criminal background. Waite was accused of assault and robbery in 2010 in Brattleboro, but the charge was dismissed; he has no other criminal record.
Winter's record consists of six misdemeanor convictions including driving under the influence, simple assault and careless or negligent vehicle operation.
Brennan has the longest record with 10 misdemeanor convictions. They are as recent as last year, when he was convicted of credit card fraud and a stolen-property offense. Brennan's other convictions include disorderly conduct, unlawful trespass, unlawful mischief, petit larceny and failures to appear in court; Cay also noted that he has three unsatisfactory discharges from probation.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.