By Bob Uphues
A Chicago woman convicted of robbing two TCF Bank branches in 2012, including one in North Riverside, won't have to spend any time in federal prison, a U.S. District Court judge ruled on Sept. 9.
Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman sentenced 61-year-old Sharletta Shepard to one day in prison, with that time already considered served. Shepard was also sentenced to three years supervised release, with the first 90 days in home confinement. During home confinement, Shepard may leave in order to work and go to medical appointments and religious services and "other activities" approved in advance by her probation officer.
She was also ordered to attend a drug treatment program and undergo no more than 104 drug tests per year. She was also ordered to participate in a mental health treatment program and participate in financial counseling.
In addition, Shepard was ordered to pay $1,543 to TCF Bank as restitution. That payment included a $100 immediate payment and future payments in the amount of 10 percent of her net monthly income.
As part of her ruling, Johnson Coleman also wrote a separate document supporting her reasons for the light sentence. That document, however, is sealed. Federal prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Shepard to three years in prison.
While Johnson Coleman's reasons for her judgment remain under seal, the sentence she handed down mirrored what Shepard's attorney had asked for in an Aug. 30 sentencing memorandum.
In that document Shepard's attorney outlined her extensive history of medical problems, the 2011 death of her husband, her troubled childhood, subsequent drug addiction and financial hardships. Those financial difficulties, compounded by the fact that Shepard was also financially supporting three grandchildren, the attorney stated, led Shepard to become desperate for money.
"It was done under a state of desperation for the well-being of her grandchildren," wrote Piyush Chandra, Shepard's attorney.
Chandra also argued that Shepard's medical condition, age and sense of remorse made her very unlikely to become a repeat offender. Her medical condition would also make her more likely to contract infections if she were put in a general prison population, Chandra said.
Federal prosecutors said their request that Shepard's sentence be set at three years was already below federal sentencing guidelines and took into account all of the mitigating factors in Shepard's life.
A three-year sentence, the prosecution argued, "will not only reflect the seriousness of the offense, but it will serve as deterrence to [Shepard] and others from committing this violent offense, where poverty and economic hardship are not uncommon motives."
On March 21, 2012, two days after robbing a TCF Bank branch in Chicago, Shepard — wearing a wig and sunglasses — walked up to a teller at the TCF Bank branch inside Jewel/Osco at 7201 24th St. and handed over a note threatening to throw acid in the teller's face if she didn't hand over cash.
The teller gave Shepard $712, and Shepard fled in a car with no license plates northbound on Harlem Avenue. She was apprehended just north of Roosevelt Road by North Riverside police. Since her arrest, Shepard had been under house arrest and electronic monitoring.