Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

Criminal law tale of extenuating circumstances, judicial discretion

Many of our readers across Missouri and elsewhere are likely privy to some details regarding a widely reported story concerning a bank heist in Kansas City last year that turned out to be more than a bit anomalous.

In fact, the bank robbery was, well, what … fictional? We impart a summary account here for reasons we believe are relevant and even instructive for readers interested in criminal law matters.

In a nutshell: A 71-year-old man -- depressed and clearly out of sorts following major life changes owing to surgery and an undiagnosed illness -- robbed a bank in what his defense termed a "cry for help."

He had no weapon and he never left the building after receiving some cash. Instead, he quietly sat down and waited for police to arrive, fully cooperating with them once they did.

Judgment day for the man came earlier this month in a federal court.

And what emerges as noteworthy in his case was the clear coming together of the man's defense team, prosecutors and his sentencing judge in seeing the crime for what it was, an aberrant action owing to clearly singular factors.

The result was a sentence eschewing prison time in lieu of six months of home confinement and a few other relatively minor exactions. The defendant's "health issues, remorse and unlikeliness to offend" were cited as material factors influencing the outcome.

Seemingly, agreement with the judge's decision was unanimous, with even bank officials pushing for mitigation in the matter.

The bottom line is that the man is now reportedly in good condition after having been properly diagnosed, and he is clearly sorry for his actions. The dose of judicial discretion applied in the matter clearly speaks to the fairness and rationality that can result in sentencing outcomes when judges' hands are not tied by harsh mandatory guidelines or other impediments undermining a reasonable result, and when a proven defense attorney effectively communicates on behalf of a client.

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Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

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Saint Louis, MO 63105

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