Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge allows 73-year-old bank robbery defendant to go home

TAMPA — Hillsborough Circuit Judge Gregory Holder often jokes that he would not let even his mother out of jail on her own recognizance.

But Friday morning, he made an exception for a 73-year-old man accused of robbing three South Tampa banks.

Saying James W. Bruce's circumstances called for "somewhat unique justice," the judge ordered him to be released without having to post bail.

Bruce, an Air Force veteran with no prior record, spent 29 days behind bars.

Financial troubles appear to have landed him and kept him there. He told detectives he needed the $600 he took from each bank — using demand notes but no gun or mask — for his mortgage. He said he planned to pay it back.

In court papers, Vickie Bruce, his wife of 18 years, said she could pay their mortgage or her husband's $22,500 bail, but not both.

The couple waved to each other Friday in court, where Vickie Bruce spoke about the man who worked alongside her at their struggling garden store until his Feb. 11 arrest.

"Mrs. Bruce, what in the world is going on with your husband?" Holder asked. "How did he end up here today?"

"I don't have a good answer for you," she said. "The little things that I've seen along the way have alarmed me, but I haven't been able to imagine at all that something like this would happen."

She continued in a soft voice.

"Simple things seem to confuse him," she said.

Attorneys said Thursday that there are mental health issues to explore in the case.

Assistant Public Defender Jason Isaac said his client previously suffered a stroke.

James Bruce walked into the banks he is accused of robbing. In court this week, he sat in a wheelchair.

According to his motion seeking reduced bail, he did not receive medication in jail for his severely enlarged prostate. He also had swollen legs, possibly a side effect from not getting the medicine, his attorney wrote.

Dr. Beth Weaver, medical advisor for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, said Friday that despite Bruce initially telling the jail staff he had no medical conditions, he was treated for his prostate and swollen legs once those issues became apparent. He was moved to the infirmary March 5 and remained there until he left jail Friday afternoon, she said.

Bruce could get up to 45 years in prison if convicted of three counts of bank robbery.

Assistant State Attorney Kyle Pennington did not object to his release.

"This is an unusual case," he said.

Managers at the three banks had no comment Friday.

Holder isn't the only one to give special consideration to Bruce's lack of a criminal record and desperate financial situation. Tampa police requested that the case be prosecuted in state court rather than at the federal level, spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

The judge struck a gentle tone with Bruce but warned him to comply with the law, show up for court hearings and take care of any medical issues.

Holder tacked on a special condition to Bruce's release.

"Stay away from banks," he said.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Judge allows 73-year-old bank robbery defendant to go home 03/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 12, 2010 11:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears

    World

    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'

    War

    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]