Bank robbery suspect chooses jail cell over living with his wife
A remorseful 71-year-old man who robbed a Kansas City, Kan., bank last September and told police he hoped to land in prison to escape his wife told a federal judge Tuesday that heart surgery had left him depressed and unlike himself when he committed the crime.
Though Lawrence John Ripple pleaded guilty to bank robbery in January and could have spent up to 37 months in prison, his attorney and federal prosecutors asked a U.S. District Court judge for leniency. That request was supported by the vice president of the bank and the teller whom Ripple frightened, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheri Catania.
U.S. District Court Judge Carlos Murguia sentenced Ripple on Tuesday to six months of home confinement after public defender Chekasha Ramsey and Catania cited Ripple’s health issues, remorse and unlikeliness to reoffend.
Ripple will also serve three years of supervised probation, including 50 hours of community service. He was ordered to pay $227.27 to the bank he robbed — the amount representing the billable hours for bank employees who were sent home on the day of robbery — and $100 to a crime victims fund.
Ripple’s story gained national attention last fall when he walked into the Bank of Labor, located a block away from the Kansas City, Kan., police headquarters, and gave a note to the teller. It read: “I have a gun, give me money,” according to court documents.
After the teller gave Ripple $2,924, Ripple sat down in the bank lobby to wait for police, and later told authorities that he had written out a robbery note in front of his wife and told her he would rather be in jail than at home.
Ramsey told a judge Tuesday that before the September incident, Ripple had lived a law-abiding life. He had no criminal record, was a dutiful father to four step-children and was in a stable relationship with his wife.
He suffered from depression after undergoing a quadruple bypass heart surgery in 2015, Ramsey said. The depression remained undiagnosed and manifested as irritability, so Ripple didn’t think to report his symptoms to a doctor.
Calling the robbery a “cry for help,” Ramsey said that Ripple has since been properly diagnosed, is on proper medication and feels like his normal self again.
“Mr. Ripple understands what he did and he respects the law as indicated by his past behavior,” said Ramsey, who told the judge that Ripple had also been attending mandated counseling sessions with his wife.
Accompanied by his wife and several family members Tuesday, Ripple appeared remorseful and apologized to both Bank of Labor and the bank teller. He declined to talk to The Star.
“It was not my intention to frighten her (the teller) as I did,” Ripple said in court Tuesday.
Ripple said that he felt better after finding the right medication and said prison would be more of a punishment for his wife than for him.
“I feel great now,” Ripple said. “I feel like my old self.”
Both Murguia and Catania said that it was extremely uncommon for a person convicted of bank robbery to receive a sentence that doesn’t involve prison time. Catania said she had only requested the court to consider other sentencing options in two other occasions throughout her career.
“What’s got lost in the news reports is that Mr. Ripple went to a bank, robbed it and never left,” Catania said.
When a bank security guard and police found him, Catania said, he immediately returned the money. Though he had threatened the bank teller with a gun, the only items found on his person were nail clippers and a hair brush.