ST. GEORGE – A man accused of robbing a credit union in July pleaded guilty in 5th District Court Wednesday.
Jerry Dee Wells, 45, of Price, Utah, pleaded guilty to second-degree felony robbery and third-degree felony theft without a plea deal. The charges stem from the July 4 robbery of the Mountain America Credit Union at 123 S. River Road in St. George and the theft of a bicycle the same day.
Wells was arrested the day after the robbery took place. He originally pleaded not guilty to the charges in August.
Edward Flint, Wells’ attorney, said Wells’ mother died in Price, Utah, and he had been denied a cash advance from his employer that may have been used to pay for a trip home. This apparently left Wells’ feeling “despondent,” Flint said.
Though Wells never said these events were the trigger for the robbery, Flint said it lined up.
After walking into the credit union, Wells handed a teller a note demanding money. Once he received cash, Wells fled on foot. No weapons were displayed or used during the robbery.
Wells made it out of the credit union with $200, Flint said.
Wells also stole a bicycle, estimated to be worth between $1,800 -$2,000, from an assisted living facility. This theft resulted in a third-degree felony charge due to the value of the bicycle. Deputy Washington County Attorney Bryan Wheat, who prosecuted the case, said Wells took the bicycle while getting away from the credit union.
Bank and credit union robberies tend to be handled in federal courts, as they are counted as federal offenses. However, Flint said the federal prosecutors let the 5th District Court have this one.
“The feds declined it,” he said.
A trial had been scheduled for Wells on Friday and was subsequently canceled due to his plea.
“He admitted it and took full responsibility for it,” Flint said.
There was no plea deal involved. A plea deal had been offered at one point in the case but was retracted by the state after Wells refused it, the attorney said.
“He messed up big time,” Flint said. “It’s going to cost him.”
A second-degree felony in Utah carries a 1-15 year prison sentence with a fine of up to $10,000. A third-degree felony carries a 0-5 year prison term with a possible fine of up to $5,000.
“That’s what he’s looking at,” Flint said, adding that he wondered if the severity of the charges would be mitigated due to Wells’ possibly despondent state of mind at the time the crimes were committed.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 29.
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