Accused bank robbers plead not guilty in federal court

By Patrick Kernan - [email protected]
Spaide and Pambianco -

SCRANTON — Despite a promise only the day before from one of two accused bank robbers that he would have to be carried into the courthouse by sheriff deputies, an arraignment before a federal judge Tuesday was quiet.

Derek Spaide and Gerald Pambianco are charged in a May 16 crime spree that allegedly started with a home invasion in Hanover Township and ended with an alleged bank robbery at a Plains Township branch of the Luzerne National Bank.

It was for the bank robbery charges they appeared in federal court in Scranton on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Karoline Mehalchick.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert O’Hara said Spaide, 26, and Pambianco, 29, are facing charges of conspiracy to use a firearm in a crime, armed bank robbery, possession of a weapon as a convicted felon and use of a firearm in the commission of a crime.

The final charge is the most serious the men are facing, with O’Hara saying it could carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. The remainder of the charges could each land the men in prison for decades if they are found guilty.

The pair entered pleas of not guilty through their attorneys. Pambianco, of Plains Township, is represented by Melinda Ghilardi; Spaide, of Hanover Township, by Joseph Blazosek.

According to police, Pambianco and Spaide broke into an Askam home, ransacking the place and stealing firearms they then used to rob the Plains Township bank. They were arrested after a high-speed chase on the North Cross Valley Expressway.

Spaide in particular has been aggressive to media at his court appearances, making threatening comments and lunging at a reporter while being led to police vehicles.

On Monday, while the two were being arraigned for the home invasion, Spaide said he would need to be carried in by deputies at his next court appearance.

Spaide was more restrained Tuesday, offering little more than a simple “Yes, ma’am” to Judge Mehalchick’s questions. While speaking with his attorney before the arraignment, though, he seemed visibly agitated, stealing quick glances around the courtroom. He also seemed to be grinding his teeth.

After the men entered their pleas, Mehalchick said their case was under the control of U.S. District Judge Malachy E. Mannion. She said jury selection would begin before him Aug. 6.

Both men remain locked up in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.

Spaide and Pambianco and Pambianco

By Patrick Kernan

[email protected]

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan