Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Nevada Man Robs Bank to Go to Jail, Gets What He Wants

Tommy Ray McAdoo wanted one thing when he walked into a Nevada bank last November brandishing a steak knife: a prison sentence. Homeless, "freezing and scared" according to his public defender, and suffering from heart kidney disease, McAdoo didn't want to spend more time on the Reno streets.

With a criminal history stretching back to 1964, the 77-year-old had done several stints in jail and wanted to return to "a world he's familiar with." But even more odd than McAdoo wanting to be re-incarcerated is a federal judge obliging him.

"Profoundly Institutionalized"

U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones sentenced McAdoo to 15 years in federal prison, determining that the use of a dangerous weapon during the robbery was evidence that the septuagenarian remained a threat to public safety. "He has shown a willingness to commit a violent crime in order to obtain a benefit, including government housing," Jones said, apparently un-ironically, while giving the bank robber exactly what he wanted. "All I can say is I'm sorry," told the judge, according to the AP. "Patsy Cline had a song, 'I'm So Sorry.' And that's what I am now."

"He was just freezing and scared, and prison is a world he's familiar with," U.S. public defender Lauren Gorman argued. "He instinctively did what he knew would land him back there -- he robbed another bank. In some respects, it's understandable that someone who has been so profoundly institutionalized his entire life would have responded that way."

Years and Minutes

McAdoo responded by scrawling a note on a sports book sheet and absconding with $2,700 cash in a paper bag from a downtown Reno bank. Police found him eating at a nearby casino, and when they asked what he was doing, he replied, "I used to rob banks." McAdoo was allegedly in Nevada to pad his $880 monthly Social Security check with a little gambling, but "generally lost" and found himself homeless.

Gorman asked the court for a five-year sentence, citing McAdoo's heart and kidney disease and his likelihood to die in prison. "It would give him a sliver of hope, if he ever makes it that long," Gorman argued. "As he stands here today, he could go at any minute."

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