U.S. District Court Judge John F. Grady, on Oct. 3, sentenced Orland Park resident Ronald Townsend to 41 months in prison for robbing a TCF Bank branch in North Riverside in March 2011.
Townsend, 45, last week appealed the judge’s ruling, which was characterized by his attorneys as too harsh, given Townsend’s lack of previous criminal history and the circumstances that led him to rob the bank.
In a September court filing, attorneys Beau Brindley and Michael Thompson objected to the prosecutor’s contention that Townsend should be imprisoned for between 41 and 51 months.
In their view, Townsend’s sentence should not have exceeded 24 months. Townsend resorted to robbing the TCF Bank at 7201 W. 24th St. in North Riverside, the attorneys argued, “at a point of extreme emotional distress resulting from a financial crisis that saw Mr. Townsend in the midst of losing both his home and marriage.”
Until that moment of crisis, Townsend worked throughout his life, holding multiple jobs on occasion, to support his family, his attorneys argued.
“Mr. Townsend is not the type of man whose first instinct is to resort to criminal actions to make his living,” his attorneys stated in the September court filing. “Though he did so in this case, it was a moment of desperation, not an act of accustomed criminality.”
While Townsend was also suspected of robbing a Bolingbrook payday loan store about a month after holding up the North Riverside bank, his attorneys argued that the two incidents should be viewed as one action.
“Mr. Townsend was suffering from the same episode of psychological stress and impaired judgment brought on by his financial and marital struggles,” his attorneys stated.
But the judge favored a sentence at the low end of the prosecutor’s request, which was based on the fact that Townsend threatened to shoot the North Riverside bank teller if she didn’t cooperate. While he didn’t display a weapon, Townsend kept one hand inside the armpit of his jacket, as if he had a gun.
“The only motivating factor behind Townsend’s bank robbery appears to have been money,” argued Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Otlewski in a September court filing. “Townsend had lost his job and his family was in a difficult situation. Such difficulties, sad as they may be, are neither an excuse nor a justification for the crime of violence committed by Townsend.”
In addition to the prison sentence, Grady ordered Townsend to pay $2,925 in restitution to TCF Bank. Townsend has already served about 18 months of his sentence; he has been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago since his arrest in May 2011.
On Wednesday, Oct. 17, a 59-year-old woman, suspected of robbing that same TCF Bank branch in North Riverside earlier this year, is expected to plead guilty to the charges against her in U.S. District Court.
Sharletta Shepard, of Chicago, pleaded not guilty on July 25 to robbing two TCF Bank branches, one in Chicago and one in North Riverside in the span of two days in March.
On March 21, after allegedly making off with $712 from the TCF Bank at 7201 W. 24th St., Shepard was arrested by North Riverside police as she fled northbound in a car on Harlem Avenue.
At the time of her arrest, she was wearing the same wig and sunglasses she used while allegedly robbing the bank. Money reportedly fell out of her clothing when police took her into custody.
She was indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with two counts of bank robbery in late June.
Since shortly after her arrest, Shepard has been under house arrest and electronic monitoring. Judge Jeffrey Cole in June threatened to revoke her bond after she reportedly violated the terms of her home confinement.
Later in June, Cole was replaced on the case by Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman. On Sept. 12, court records indicate that both sides are working toward a plea agreement, which will result on Oct. 17 in Shepard changing her plea to guilty.