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Crime & Courts

Trial to begin for man accused in bank robbery

DeKALB – A trial is expected to begin today for a 31-year-old Chicago man accused of being involved in the 2009 robbery of Associated Bank in DeKalb.

Eric Bernard, of the 3300 block of West Beach Avenue, is charged with armed robbery in connection with the Nov. 11, 2009, robbery, in which more than $6,000 in cash was stolen at gunpoint, court records show.

Police said two other people also were involved: Michael King, 30, of Chicago, was found guilty and sentenced to 23 years in prison by DeKalb County Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert in 2011. Jasmen Cunningham, 26, of the 7500 block of South Blackstone Avenue in Chicago, is due in court Wednesday.

Police said Bernard and King were the gunmen, and Cunningham is accused of driving them around the area to help them check out the neighborhood.

Assistant State’s Attorney Duke Harris said he will call witnesses who were at the bank, experts from the Illinois State Police laboratories and DeKalb police officers to testify today.

The case has gone on for more than four years because Bernard represented himself, Harris said, and filed more than 100 motions, including motions to dismiss and motions to suppress DNA results.

“Pretty much anything he could file, he filed,” Harris said.

Conflict attorney Dan Transier will represent Bernard at the trial. Conflict attorneys are appointed when there is a conflict of interest with the DeKalb County Public Defender’s office. In this case, the Public Defender’s office represented a witness, said Tom McCollough, DeKalb County Public Defender.

During King’s trial in 2011, prosecutors said DNA evidence on items found in a plastic bag shortly after the robbery connecting Bernard to the crime.

The lack of DNA evidence against King prompted his attorney, Jason Kopec, to refer to the trial in his closing argument as a “dry run” for their case against Bernard.

During King’s trial, Cunningham told prosecutor Nicholas Gaeke that she lied when she told investigators in April 2010 that Bernard and King visited her Nov. 10 and 11, when she was a student at Northern Illinois University studying criminal justice. She said she felt coerced when she told detectives that she and the two men had gone driving the morning of the robbery to look for different ways to get away from the scene.

Cunningham also said she lied when she said she later went with Bernard to King’s Chicago home, where they discussed the details of the robbery.

Cunningham and Bernard, who is being held in DeKalb County jail on $1 million bond, have a child together.

If convicted, Bernard could face between six and 30 years in prison.

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