No separate trial for suspect in heists leading to agent's death

March 3, 2008 3:06:58 PM PST
A federal judge on Monday denied a separate trial for one of three men charged in a series of armed bank robberies that led to the death of an FBI agent last spring. Francisco Herrera-Genao had sought to have his trial severed due to statements made to police by his alleged accomplices. One of the men, Efrain Lynn, described the group's exploits in detail in a court filing made by federal prosecutors last month.

Lynn, Herrera-Genao and Wilfredo Berrios, all of New Brunswick, face robbery, weapons and conspiracy counts stemming from four bank robberies in central New Jersey in early 2007. A fourth suspect, Michael Cruz, pleaded guilty in January.

Cruz, Berrios and Herrera-Genao were apprehended as they allegedly attempted to rob a fifth bank on April 5 in Readington.

In the ensuing gunfire, FBI Special Agent Barry Lee Bush, 52, was accidentally shot and killed by another agent, according to the FBI.

Lynn, who is charged with participating in other robberies, was arrested the same day at an unidentified location.

According to the FBI, the suspects carried two assault rifles and a handgun on April 5 but did not fire their weapons, though they are alleged to have fired the weapons at three other robberies. In Lynn's statement to authorities, he described the group as ready to "go at it" if they encountered police.

At Monday's hearing, Brown also denied motions by Herrera-Genao's attorney, Martin Matlaga, to suppress statements made by his client and evidence discovered during a search of Herrera-Genao's home and car.

Dressed in olive green prison jumpsuits, Berrios and Herrera-Genao renewed their not guilty pleas after prosecutors filed a superseding indictment that changed minor details but did not alter the original charges against the three men.

Brown also granted a motion by Berrios' attorneys, William Harth and F. Kevin Lynch, to be removed from the case due to differences with their client. Berrios was to be represented by Trenton attorney Jack Furlong.

Brown delayed setting a trial date until Lynn, who was not in court Monday, completes a psychological evaluation as part of an insanity defense. Herrera-Genao also filed for an insanity defense but abandoned it in December after being examined by several psychiatrists.

"We want to see that this goes to trial as expeditiously as possible so we can put the evidence in front of a jury," Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles P. McKenna said Monday.

Though the four suspects are not charged with killing Bush, they could face longer sentences if they are convicted and the sentencing judge rules that their actions contributed to his death.

Bush, who lived near Easton, Pa., was the first FBI agent killed in the line of duty in New Jersey and the 51st overall.