ST. GEORGE – A man involved in a credit union robbery was sentenced in 5th District Court Wednesday to serve one-to-15 years in prison.
Jerry Dee Wells, 45, of Price, Utah, was sentenced for the July 3 robbery of the Mountain America Credit Union on River Road in St. George. During the robbery Wells walked into the bank and handed a teller a note demanding money. He received $200 and fled the scene on foot. While leaving the area, he also stole a bicycle as part of his getaway. No weapons were used during the robbery, according to court records.
Wells pleaded guilty to the second-degree felony robbery of credit union and third-degree felony robbery of the bicycle on Sept. 17.
Edward Flint, Wells’ attorney, filed a motion with the court on Sept. 23 to reduce the robbery count to a third-degree felony due to circumstances surrounding the case.
Prior to the robbery and theft, Wells had learned his mother who lived outside Washington County wasn’t faring well and subsequently died. Wells asked for time off and advanced pay from work to so he could travel home, but was denied. Flint wrote in his motion that this left Wells in a state of “utter despair and desperation.”
The situation led to Wells using alcohol and drugs as a means to cope with the situation he found himself in, Flint said. Mental illness was also mentioned as a contributing factor to Wells’ impaired judgment at the time.
“His capacity to think rationally and reasonably were impaired due to voluntary alcohol intoxication and drug abuse, and his remorse and desire to make restitution and an amends are positive examples of his qualifications for a lesser sentence,” Flint wrote in the motion.
In the courtroom Wednesday morning, Flint said Wells had become drunk and didn’t exactly remember what had happened at the credit union. Wells was apparently intoxicated at the time and only recalled the note he would give a teller and then being outside with $200 in hand and not being able to find his car, which led to his stealing the bike to get away from the scene.
Police found and arrested Wells the following day.
Flint said his client had committed serious crimes, yet asked for mercy from the court on Wells’ behalf.
“It’s a pathetic, despondent situation” Wells found himself in, Flint said.
Reducing the second-degree felony would take a prison sentence of up to 15 years off the table for Wells and instead would keep him incarcerated for zero-5 years under a third-degree felony.
Flint said Wells is now homeless, and prison will “simply warehouse him for a very long time” and would not necessarily provide him with the help he needs.
The prosecution objected to a reduction of the criminal penalty. “These are very serious offenses,” said Bryan Wheat, deputy Washington County attorney.
Combined with the current case and past history of other offenses, Wheat said Wells shouldn’t be allowed a lesser sentence.
Though Wells had a history of dishonesty, Flint said, it shouldn’t disqualify him from a reduced sentence because of the state of mind he was in at the time of the robbery and theft.
“Motion denied,” Judge G. Michael Westfall said. The second-degree felony charge remained.
Wells was allowed to address the court before his sentence was passed.
He said he was sorry for the incident and that the person who had committed the crime wasn’t the person he really is. He also said there was no excuse for what he had done.
“There’s no excuse for threatening a teller with a note” Westfall said, and said the note had “I know where you live, give me money” written on it.
Westfall sentenced Wells to serve one-to-15 years for the credit union robbery and zero-5 years for the theft of the bicycle, Both sentences are to be served concurrently. Wells was also ordered to pay $200 restitution for the money he took. Restitution on the matter of the stolen bike was allowed to remain open-ended for one year.
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