Lawyer: Couple robbed Colchester bank to pay medical bills — (The Norwich Bulletin)

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The Norwich Bulletin

By GREG SMITH, Norwich Bulletin

May 22, 2007

NORWICH — Charles Orbann is a retired former teacher of the year, a grandfather, husband and, now, in what his attorney said is a “bizarre situation,” a suspected bank robber.

Charles Orbann, 58, and his wife of 38 years, Dianne Orbann, 56, were arraigned Monday in Norwich Superior Court on charges connected to a midday robbery Friday at the Colchester branch of People’s Bank.

The East Hampton couple, who have no prior criminal record, were pulled over and arrested 16 minutes after Charles Orbann allegedly left the bank at 139 S. Main St. with a bag of cash. His wife allegedly drove the waiting getaway car. Police said they found two loaded pistols along with the stolen cash — an undisclosed amount up to $10,000 — in the vehicle.

Mounting medical bills, compounded by psychiatric issues, may have motivated the alleged robbery by the couple, said attorney Ron Murphy of New Britain-based Advocates Law Firm.

“It’s a sad, sad situation, your honor,” Murphy said. “He freaked out over his financial situation.”

Charles Orbann was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1998, the year he retired from teaching after 25 years at a school outside Philadelphia, Murphy said. At the school, he was twice voted teacher of the year and coached three different sports teams. He was also recently diagnosed with skin cancer and underwent cataract surgery, Murphy said.

Shackled at the ankles and wrists, Charles Orbann patted his hand to his heart and broke into tears as he entered the courtroom.

Two men, identified by Murphy as the son and brother of Charles Orbann, stood as he approached the judge.

“They’re here to lend support for Mr. Orbann,” Murphy said.

Murphy and attorney Hope C. Steely of the Hartford Firm Santos & Seeley, who represented Dianne Orbann, said the couple had moved from Pennsylvania to follow their son, first to Chicago and three years ago to Connecticut. They are taking care of two grandchildren and collecting Social Security disability, she said.

Dianne Orbann takes medication and is suffering from panic disorder, anxiety, depression and migraines, Seeley said.

“This is one of the most bizarre situations I’ve ever seen,” Murphy told Judge Jack Fischer in arguing for a lower bond.

Fischer, under the recommendation of state prosecutor Thomas Griffin, ordered Dianne Orbann held on $150,000 bond and Charles Orbann on $350,000 bond. Dianne Orbann was later released after posting the money.

Reach Greg Smith at 425-4219 or gasmith@norwichbulletin.com