Weeki Wachee bank robber asks for a break, gets the max

BROOKSVILLE — With his cuffed hands clasped together in front of him, convicted bank robber Timothy Tad Smith tried to make his case for a lenient sentence.

Reading a statement written on yellow notepaper, Smith called the criminal justice system's method of meting out punishment unfair. He said that robbing a huge corporate bank of insured money is not as devastating as robbing an individual would be. And he admitted he was desperate when he walked into a Bank of America office in Weeki Wachee in December 2011, passed a note to a teller, and fled with nearly $17,000 in cash.

"I am not saying that we should not be accountable for our actions, only that that accountability should be in accordance with those actions and not a manifestation of vengeance or political backlash," said Smith, 40. In his case, "There was no weapon, no heinous violence, no injury, nor any physical violence."

Smith made his points. Then, after a 15 minute recess, Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. handed down the maximum prison term of 15 years.

Merritt called Smith's statements an unconvincing attempt to rationalize a grievous offense.

"It's an abject failure to understand the effect of your behavior and your conduct in general, and an abject failure to understand the difference between simple right and wrong," Merritt said.

Merritt also disputed the assertion by Smith and his public defender Barbara-Jo Bell that he did not make a threat. Merritt noted that the piece of paper Smith passed to the teller said that if she did what he wanted, he wouldn't hurt anyone.

"The court finds there are few things more intimidating than to be handed that type of note in that context, in that type of employment," Merrit said. "And that type of criminal conduct is exceptionally offensive."

Earlier in the hearing, Assistant State Attorney Jason Smith said the teller missed eight weeks of work and still suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Smith asked Merritt to levy the maximum sentence.

During a two-day trial in January, Smith presented more than two dozen pieces of evidence to prove that Timothy Smith robbed the bank branch at State Road 50 and U.S. 19.

The evening after the robbery, deputies found Smith sleeping in his Ford van at the Walmart on Cortez Boulevard in Spring Hill. They found $11,160 in cash in the van, along with a bank strap used to wrap bills and a note that the teller would later identify as the one he passed to her that day.

Smith declined an offer from the State Attorney's Office that would have had him serve eight years in state prison. At one point before the trial, Smith told Merritt he wanted to stand trial because of personal reasons.

During his 30-minute remarks on Thursday, Timothy Smith found fault with that part of the process. According to Smith, his criminal record resulted in a sentencing score sheet of 36 points. Eight years in prison, he said, is equal to 156 points.

Records show Smith has been arrested at least four times in Florida, with convictions on charges of misdemeanor drug possession and fleeing to elude police. He was released from federal prison in 2010 after serving nine months for possessing combat rifles that were not registered to him, records show.

Smith asked Merritt a series of rhetorical questions that tried to explain his desperation and suggested he had been doing unspecified but very important work.

"What if you were about to lose your life's work and everything you own if you didn't do something?" he asked. "What if you had painstakingly catalogued esoteric knowledge and classified information about suppressed energy technologies, all of which were important to the human race? What would you do to prevent or issue a warning for an impending catastrophe if you had foreknowledge? Would you resort to extreme measures?"

Then Smith reminded Merritt about a fact that came out during the trial: On the day of the robbery, he had a payment due on a storage unit.

Reach Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

Weeki Wachee bank robber asks for a break, gets the max 03/14/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 15, 2013 9:03am]

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