Bail Fail
U.S. District Court

Twice-bailed 8x bank robber sentenced in San Francisco court

A man who “threatened staff with violence and death” during a spate of San Francisco bank robberies, then given bail, which he skipped, and then, given bail again, went on to commit another robbery on Market Street, was sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment this morning.

Willie Thomas, 34, hit eight banks in neighborhoods across the city in a three week spree in early 2022. His is a case in which arguably undue leniency on the part of state and federal courts – even in a high profile case of huge public concern – played a significant role

Today, the lenient approach concluded and U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley threw the book at Thomas.

“It is extremely serious,” she told him. “Put yourself in the place of a teller getting this note, threatening to kill.”

“I have to have a sentence that reflects this incredibly dangerous conduct.”

Thomas hit Wells Fargo at 3801 3rd St (1/​25/​22), Chase at 2900 Mis­sion and Wells Fargo at 655 8th St (1/​27/​22), Bank of the West at 2675 San Bruno Ave (2/​2/​22), Chase at 1811 19th Ave and Wells Fargo at 2300 16th Ave (2/​5/​22), US Bank at 4610 Mis­sion St (2/​9/​23) and US Bank at 4947 3rd St (2/​17/​23).

In all $25,000 was stolen in Thomas’ rob­bery spree. “The tellers in­ter­act­ing with the de­fen­dant were ter­ri­fied” the court was told.

Thomas was ar­rested to great fan­fare by SFPD on Feb­ru­ary 17 2022. Less well pub­li­cized was his prompt re­lease on bail, where­upon he cut off his an­kle mon­i­tor and went on the lam un­til his re­ar­rest weeks later in the Ten­der­loin in pos­ses­sion of heroin and co­caine.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors then took over. At an April 22, 2022 hear­ing they noted Thomas’ “ex­ten­sive crim­i­nal record” and said there was “a se­ri­ous and highly prob­a­ble risk that […] re­lease would re­sult in [him] once again rob­bing banks to fuel his […] drug use.”

Nev­er­the­less at that hear­ing U.S. Mag­is­trate Judge Thomas Hix­son or­dered the de­fen­dant “to be eval­u­ated for res­i­den­tial drug treat­ment at New Bridge [Foun­da­tion]” and one month later, on May 26, he or­dered his re­lease into re­lease into res­i­den­tial drug treat­ment.

By July 2022 things had started to go wrong and, at a bail re­view hear­ing on July 20, pros­e­cu­tors re­ported “con­cerns about the de­fen­dan­t’s be­hav­ior” while at New Bridge. The court “ad­mon­ished de­fen­dant about his be­hav­ior and the con­se­quences of it.”

In late Au­gust the court was told that Thomas had be­come “a dan­ger to the com­mu­nity” and ought to be de­tained. In­stead Judge Hix­son “strongly ad­mon­ished de­fen­dant about his con­duct” and set a sta­tus hear­ing for Sep­tem­ber 15.

Mr Thomas failed to heed the judge’s words of fa­therly ad­vice, how­ever, opt­ing in­stead to com­mit a fur­ther rob­bery on Mar­ket St in San Fran­cisco for which he was ar­rested by SFPD on Sep­tem­ber 9.

“That Judge Hixson let you out at all was a little bit of suprising actually, given what you were accused of,” said Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley today, “because there was an acknowledgement that your substance abuse led to these terribly dangerous crimes.”

“However while you were on release you failed to take advantage of these opportunities.”

The judge also revealed that the Market Street robbery was of “an older woman”.

Earlier the court heard from the defense and the defendant about the impact of his drug addiction.

 “This case represents an issue that Mr Thomas – in the crux of a strong addiction – engaged in conduct that he now realises was reprehensible,” said deputy federal defender Candis Mitchell.

“I understand what I did was wrong,” said Thomas, “but I had an addiction to heroin which was very bad…I wasn’t thinking clearly…I am just sorry.”

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