Bank robber sentenced to 20 years

A 27-year-old Mammoth Lakes, Calif., snowboarder was sentenced Monday to 20 years in Nevada State Prison for an armed bank robbery which he never admitted committing.

Steven John Simmons sat motionless as District Judge Michael Gibbons sentenced him to 10 years in Nevada State Prison for armed robbery.

The penalty was doubled because of use of a deadly weapon.

Simmons also was sentenced to four years to be served concurrently for possession of a firearm with the serial number changed, altered or obliterated.

Simmons apologized to the five women who were in the Minden Bank of America late Nov. 22, 2005, when a masked man burst into the branch near closing with a loaded 9 mm Glock handgun and demanded money.

"I am sorry for any pain or suffering you may be experiencing from all this," he said Wednesday, the only comment he made.

Simmons must served a minimum of six years before he is eligible for parole.

Donna Kruger, who was head teller at the branch and testified that Simmons pointed a gun at her head during the robbery, told him that she forgave him.

"Today is not a victory for me," she said, struggling to maintain composure. "Actually, it is very sad."

After the robbery, Kruger said she was approached by a woman from her church who said she had a premonition that day to pray for her at 4:30 p.m., about 20 minutes before the holdup.

"She had an urgency to pray for me. Not only was God protecting me, He was protecting you," she said to Simmons.

"If you had used your weapon, the outcome would have been much greater," she said.

"My hope is you will take this time to reflect," she said. "I have no recommendation. That's not what I'm here for. You're a young man. You can make a huge change. I hope the best for you. I really do."

Kruger also said she wanted to thank the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

"They were amazing in their care," she said.

Sgt. Joe Duffy, who helped find Simmons after the robbery, attended the sentencing.

Simmons' father, Steve Atkin of Twin Falls, Idaho, said the defendant's relatives "were all at a loss as to how this could happen."

He said Simmons had distanced himself from his family after he moved to Mammoth Lakes, but prior to that had been active in his father's Christian ministry.

Atkin said Simmons had many talents and skills and was sorry.

"Just allow the system to work," Atkin said. "I just want him to have the same hope that I have."

He said his son, who did not testify during his three-day trial, had difficulty expressing his feelings.

"I just wanted to share a look at my life and the impact it might have had on my son," Atkin said.

In letters to Gibbons, Atkin and Simmons mother, Candace Simmons of Fontana, Calif., talked about how they were addicts when Steven was a child but are in recovery. They were not married.

His sisters wrote the judge what a great brother Simmons was and others attested to his loyalty and work ethic.

Atkin said he was told by deputies that Simmons had been a model prisoner during his 489 days in Douglas County Jail.

Prosecutor Mike McCormick asked for the maximum.

"You can see from the witnesses how this crime impacted them," McCormick said. "What is justice for how these witnesses had to suffer?"

McCormick outlined the steps he said Simmons took to plan the robbery.

"It was a well-thought-out, well-planned robbery. The only thing he didn't plan on was the shift change at the sheriff's department. There were a lot of deputies on duty," McCormick said.

Simmons was arrested 45 minutes after the robbery. There were no injuries and $4,807 was recovered.

Gibbons said he was concerned that Simmons did not take responsibility for the robbery.

"He's shown no remorse and blamed other people. He's accepted no responsibility," Gibbons said. "Is that somebody who is ready to change?

"I don't know if you're the person described in these letters or the person in the bank who showed how dangerous you can be. If it was totally out of character, I don't know. You'll have to be segregated from society."

Simmons' lawyer, Jennifer Yturbide, said she wished she had an answer.

"He knew about the robbery. He recognized the impact and is taking responsibility for his part," said Yturbide, Simmons' third court-appointed lawyer.

"I can't say he's ready to admit it was him," Yturbide said. "It would be inappropriate. He is empathetic to the impact on their lives."

She said her client was humble and it was difficult to draw him out about his accomplishments, including his snowboard victories, fishing trophies, woodworking and furniture making.


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