A 27-year-old transient, who claimed he was under the influence of demons when he robbed Bank of America, was sentenced Tuesday to two 15 year-prison terms to be served concurrently.
District Judge Tod Young sentenced Jarell Williams to 5-15 years in Nevada state prison on counts of robbery and making threats or conveying false information considering acts of terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.
Williams admitted entering the Bank of America Topsy branch on Jan. 4, and demanding $260,000 or he would blow up the bank.
Williams was arrested shortly after the incident, and the money was recovered. There were no injuries.
Williams’ lawyer, Kris Brown, said her client claimed he acted under the direction of an “entity” which directed him to rob the bank.
“I am not here to determine whether there’s an entity that speaks to you,” Young told Williams. “All I can tell you — whether you believe in an entity or not — is that you made the wrong choice.
‘You used the phrase ‘evil won.’ Your going to prison is the message here that evil did not win. You are being punished, the law prevailed. The law stands for good,” Young said.
He reminded Williams that the defendant will be 42 when released from prison if he serves the maximum.
“You will be faced with choices now through the rest of your life. You need to make the right choice.”
Williams said he chose not to seek help because he was afraid he would end up in a mental hospital.
“The crimes you perpetrated left people in the bank scarred. It probably will be a permanent memory,” Young said.
Addressing bank employees who attended the sentencing, Young said he lacked the power to erase their memories of the robbery.
“I hope you’ll be able to place this event in context, that this is a safe community, that help will come, that the sheriff’s office responded,” Young said.
Two bank employees testified Tuesday about the impact the robbery had on their lives and their families.
“You appeared to me to be a suicide bomber,” one woman said. “I never felt so helpless in my life.”
She said her children were coming to the bank to have lunch with her, and when they arrived, police were surrounding the parking lot.
“My children had nightmares for weeks. I never truly have a sense of freedom or safety,” she said.
The second woman said she couldn’t look out the bank window without wondering if someone was coming in to rob the bank.
“You didn’t plan on dealing with me,” she told Williams.
Because of her training, the woman said she was able to push the silent alarm, signal to her coworkers, and escort Williams to the vault without involving any other personnel.
She urged Young to sentence Williams to the maximum.
“I shouldn’t have to look over my shoulder and worry if you’re back in the community,” she said.
District Attorney Mark Jackson, who prosecuted the case, displayed Williams’ bank note, the vest he made to look like it contained improvised explosive devices, and a BB gun which officials found in his car.
Receipts showed Williams began planning the robbery on Dec. 28, eight days before the event.
He purchased tape he used to create the vest, the BB gun, gloves, envelopes and 3-by-5 cards for the ransom note.
Jackson said psychologists and doctors who examined Williams didn’t believe his story about demons or entities or an “evil twin” named J.
“No entity went into the Bank of America and instilled those fears. ‘J’ didn’t rob the bank. Jarell Williams robbed the bank,” Jackson said.
He said this was the first case in his 23 years of practice where the robber actually got into the vault.
“Three individuals see him,” Jackson said, “They are concerned he has an IED, he’s not wearing a mask, and they might not survive this.
“It was so good of a plan, he nearly pulled it off, except for a good citizen who was listening to the scanner.”
In a lengthy statement, Williams apologized, but said doctors and psychologists who examined him laughed at his symptoms, and made up answers to questions they never asked him.
“I need to apologize to those affected by my actions. I wish I would have been in the right state of mind. I really hate myself. I wish I’d gotten help. Regardless of my mental health, I still have no excuse for my actions. I hope I get proper treatment so this isn’t the final chapter in my life,” Williams said.
Turning to face the bank employees, Williams said, “I understand this (apology) can’t be accepted. I am sorry I did what I did. I apologize. I really just apologize.”
Court documents indicated Williams was wearing a fake improvised explosive device taped to his chest complete with wiring and a wrist switch. Once he got the money, Williams ran out of the bank to a church parking lot where he got into a white two-door sedan and drove away.
A witness, who heard the call on the police scanner, saw the suspect pull into a private driveway on Highway 395 north of Johnson Lane. She contacted deputies, and Williams was taken into custody.
According to reports, Williams’ prior contact with law enforcement involved illegal door-to-door sales for which he received a warning.
He has been held in Douglas County Jail on $300,000 bail for 138 days and was given credit for time served.
Williams must serve a minimum of five years before he is eligible for parole.