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Escaped Chicago inmate appears in court
Question of the Day
CHICAGO (AP) — A convicted bank robber who captured days after a daring escape from a high-rise downtown Chicago federal jail shuffled into court Friday, shackled at the arms and legs.
A federal judge told Joseph “Jose” Banks during the brief hearing that he is charged with escape. Banks responded that he understood.
Another man involved in the escape early Tuesday, Kenneth Conley, remains at large.
The FBI said Banks, 37, was arrested about late Thursday, days after he and Conley somehow broke a large hole into the bottom of a 6-inch window of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, dropped a makeshift rope made of bed sheets out and climbed down about 20 stories to the ground.
Special Agent Joan Hyde said in an email that the Chicago FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force, along with officers from the Chicago Police Department, arrested Banks on the city’s north side.
In a short interview, Hyde said no other arrests were made at the address where Banks was taken into custody. Whether anyone else will be charged, she said, will be decided by the U.S. attorney’s office.
Escape carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine. Banks has already been convicted in federal court of four counts of bank robbery, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
During previous trials, Banks has represented himself and claimed the government had no authority over him. On Friday, Banks had a defense attorney who was provided by his family.
The overnight escape went unnoticed for hours. Surveillance video from a nearby street showing the two hopping into a cab in downtown Chicago shortly before 3 a.m. Tuesday. They had changed out of their orange jail-issued jumpsuits.
When the federal facility did discover the two men were gone, what was found revealed a meticulously planned escape, including clothing and sheets shaped to resemble a body under blankets on beds, bars inside a mattress and even fake bars in the cells.
A massive manhunt involving state, federal and local law enforcement agencies was launched, as SWAT teams stormed into the home of a relative of Conley only to learn the two escapees had been there and left. The authorities searched other area homes and businesses — even a strip club where Conley once worked.
Law enforcement officials left a host of questions unanswered, including how the men could collect about 200 feet of bed sheets and what they might have used to break through the wall of the federal facility.
Banks, known as the Second-Hand Bandit because he wore used clothes during his alleged heists, was convicted last week of robbing two banks and attempting to rob two others. Authorities say he stole almost $600,000, and most of that still is missing.
During trial, he had to be restrained because he threatened to walk out of the courtroom. He verbally sparred with the prosecutor, at times arguing that U.S. law didn’t apply to him because he was a sovereign citizen of a group that was above state and federal law.
Conley pleaded guilty last October to robbing a Homewood Bank last year of nearly $4,000. Conley, who worked at the time at a suburban strip club, wore a coat and tie when he robbed the bank and had a gun stuffed in his waistband.
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