Ex−cop to stand trial in SE Qns. bank robbery

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Friends of retired Detective Athelson Kelson have said his cancer caused him to be depressed, but a psychological test introduced in Queens Criminal Court last week determined that the accused NYPD veteran was mentally fit to face trial on robbery charges.

After more than a month of extensive court−ordered tests with psychologists, Kelson’s attorney, Harold Ramsey, presented the findings to Queens Criminal Court Judge Dorothy Chin−Brandt Oct. 16. The mental health specialists concluded he was mentally capable of standing trial for allegedly robbing a St. Albans bank July 10, a spokesman for the Queens district attorney’s office said.

Ramsey said he would consider having his client examined by his own expert, Newsday reported.

Michael Paladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, which Kelson was a member of, said he had no comment on the development.

Kelson, who retired from the Police Department in 2005, has also been accused of robbing seven banks on Long Island in July and August, but has yet to be charged with those crimes.

During one of the robberies, Kelson was allegedly caught on a surveillance camera with an expensive watch and rings, earning him the nickname the “Bling Bandit,” according to the DA’s office. He was arrested in August on charges of robbing $600 from a Chase bank branch at 205−32 Linden Blvd., the Queens DA said. DA Richard Brown said he was picked out in a lineup following his arrest.

Kelson joined the NYPD in 1973 after serving in Vietnam with the Army and worked in various divisions during his tenure, including the Joint Terrorist Task Force Unit, according to Palladino.

The retired detective has been battling liver cancer for years and several of his union colleagues said he became upset and frightened following his diagnosis and treatment.

“He may have neglected himself. He’s gone through a rough time,” said Kelson’s longtime friend, DEA Executive Secretary Kenny Sparks, following his arraignment.

He is expected back in court Nov. 19, a spokeswoman for the Queens DA’s office said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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