DENVER - A Farmington man pleaded guilty Wednesday to helping rob Community Bank of Colorado in Cortez in June.
Prosecutors say James Charles McBride, 29, and an accomplice are responsible for four bank robberies or attempted robberies, including two in Durango.
McBride will cooperate with prosecutors in the case against his suspected accomplice, Michael Lee Montoya, when Montoya goes to trial Aug. 31 in Denver.
Montoya, 30, also of Farmington, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of bank robbery and one count of using a gun in a crime.
In exchange for Wednesday's guilty plea, prosecutors agreed not to charge McBride with the April 30 robbery of Pine River Valley Bank in Durango and the attempted holdup of Bank of the San Juans in Durango on June 8 - the same day the Cortez bank was robbed. Federal prosecutors in New Mexico also agreed not to charge McBride with a robbery at an unspecified bank in their state, his lawyer, Janine Yunker, said during Wednesday's hearing.
McBride pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting armed bank robbery. Yunker and prosecutors disagree on the typical range of sentences. Yunker thinks it should be 30 to 37 months in prison, while prosecutors say it should be 60 to 67 months.
U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello will impose the sentence in November.
Arguello asked McBride to describe in his own words what happened at the Cortez bank on June 8, when a man armed with a gun robbed an unspecified amount of money from a teller. McBride said he and Montoya drove separate vehicles to Cortez, and Montoya parked in the Safeway lot away from the bank. McBride watched Montoya enter the bank.
"He came running out of the bank with his hand under his shirt," McBride said. "I drove him over to his truck on the other side of the parking lot."
McBride said he thought Montoya intended to use a note to rob the bank and didn't know he would use a gun. However, when Arguello told him that in order to plead guilty to aiding and abetting armed bank robbery, he had to know a weapon was involved, McBride reversed himself.
"I knew it was a likelihood, your honor," McBride said.
Montezuma County Sheriff's deputies arrested McBride later that day after an off-duty deputy spotted him in a Ford Bronco. Witnesses saw the Bronco speeding away from the bank after the robbery, according to court documents.
A traffic ticket led to Montoya's arrest. Inside the Bronco, police found a New Mexico ticket that was issued to McBride while he was driving Montoya's car the morning of the robbery, according to an affidavit filed in federal court. The New Mexico officer identified Montoya as McBride's passenger when he got the ticket.
In the Pine River bank robbery in Durango, a man held up the bank using a hypodermic needle. He fled on foot. Last week, a grand jury indicted Montoya for that robbery. Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Norvell told Arguello in a hearing last week that another indictment of Montoya might happen before the Aug. 31 trial.
Yunker told Arguello that part of McBride's plea agreement involves cooperation with prosecutors.
"There are cooperation agreements with the government," Yunker said.