Ray didn’t have any family and claimed to have been raised by gypsies.  But that is not what this story is about.

Ray robbed banks. I know because I sentenced him three times. What made Ray’s crimes unusual was that he pulled the bank heists in a wheel chair.

Years ago, Ray worked as a tree trimmer. He fell from a tree and was paralyzed. Seven years later, Ray got fed up and shot himself in the gut with a .38. The shot did not kill Ray, but it really screwed up his intestines and stomach.

One of the bank robberies involved a very small bank in a very small town. Ray rolled into the bank, grabbed a big letter opener from the receptionist and then demanded the cash. Taking the money, Ray rolled out of the bank and down the street. Minutes later, Ray was stopped on the street in his chair. I don’t know why, but this scene–the confrontation between Ray in his chair and the sheriff in the middle of a dusty small town street–reminded me of the film Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Ray explained that he had robbed the bank because he needed money and no one would help him. Despite his claim, Ray had received tons of help over the years from the Social Security Administration, social service agencies and other good Samaritans. He sure as hell needed that help. In addition to Ray’s horrible physical problems, he was illiterate. He could understand road signs, but could not read the words on them. Ray was not retarded, but he was not very bright either. He suffered from a mix of personality disorders. Although Ray was not dangerous in the sense that word is typically used in the crime biz, Ray could be downright nasty.

Later on, Ray got a van that was fixed up to allow him to drive. He could even sleep in the van if needed. One day the van was parked in front of a metropolitan bank. Ray rolled out of the bank. Snow had fallen. Ray was having trouble getting into the van. People passing by saw Ray’s troubles, and helped him get into the van. What they didn’t know was that Ray had just robbed the bank while pretending to the teller that he was packing heat.

Over a span of about 12 years, I sentenced Ray to the Bureau of Prisons on three occasions.  John V. was the AFPD who represented Ray on each case. John V. made sure that we knew a lot about Ray-from detailed medical workups to multiple mental health evaluations. As usual, John V. did a great job.

Ray was afraid of me. It had something to do with my black robe. The robe creeped him out. So, John V. suggested that when I dealt with Ray I should sit at counsel table in my shirtsleeves.  That I did, and Ray and I got along quite well.

Last year, I got a notice from the Bureau of Prisons. Ray had died in prison. It seems cruel, but Ray’s death put a smile on my face.


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