CHICAGO – A convicted bank robber captured days after a daring escape from a high-rise prison in downtown Chicago likely will return to the same federal lockup, though this time he’ll most likely be held in a special isolation unit, his attorney said Friday.
Joseph “Jose” Banks, 37, made an initial appearance in court, shackles on his leg, arms and wrists clanging as he shuffled in.
Banks looked tired but calm, nodding and saying “yes” when a judge asked if he understood he had been charged with escaping from a jail just two blocks from the courthouse.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier also asked Banks, who had represented himself during his bank robbery trial, if he agreed to let an attorney his family hired represent him on the escape charge. Banks paused, shrugged his shoulders and said, “OK.”
Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, attorney Beau Brindley said he expects Banks to be held in isolation. He called it “not a nice place,” but didn’t immediately say whether it was in an interior part of the building and was windowless. Another man involved in the escape early Tuesday, Kenneth Conley, remains at large.
The FBI said Banks was arrested late Thursday, days after he and Conley somehow broke a large hole into the bottom of a 6-inch window of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, dropped a makeshift rope made of bed sheets out and climbed down about 20 stories to the ground.
Escape carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine.
Banks already has been convicted in federal court of four counts of bank robbery, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Among the observers in the crowded courtroom on Friday were several agents with the FBI, which took the lead in the search for Banks. One of his female relatives was also in court, Brindley told reporters. The relative declined to speak to reporters.
Banks was arrested on Chicago’s north side, according to the FBI.
Special Agent Joan Hyde said in an interview that no other arrests were made at the address where Banks was taken into custody. Whether anyone else will be charged, she said, will be decided by the U.S. attorney’s office.
When Banks and Conley escaped, the FBI said both men should be considered “armed and dangerous.” Hyde said she did not know whether Banks was armed when he was taken into custody.
Security appeared tighter at Banks’ hearing than for most initial appearances. Several U.S. marshals flanked Banks as he stood before the judge and several others stood by the courtroom doors.
After the 10-minute hearing, Banks’ attorney accused media of falsely depicting his client as menacing. When Banks told a judge at his bank robbery trial that ended last week with his conviction that she would be “hearing from” him, Brindley said, he didn’t meant it as a threat but merely meant he’d soon be filing post-trial motions.
“This is a fairly mild-mannered person. ... He is soft-spoken,” Brindley said.
Brindley said his only chance to speak with Banks since his capture was for several seconds during Friday’s hearing, and he declined to discuss his escape or capture.
The overnight escape went unnoticed for hours. Surveillance video from a nearby street showing the two hopping into a cab in downtown Chicago shortly before 3 a.m. Tuesday. They had changed out of their orange jail-issued jumpsuits.
Authorities found evidence of a meticulously planned escape, including clothing and sheets shaped to resemble a body under blankets on beds, bars inside a mattress and fake bars in the cells.
Law enforcement officials left a host of questions unanswered, including how the men could collect about 200 feet of bed sheets and what they might have used to break through the wall of the federal facility.
Banks, known as the Second-Hand Bandit because he wore used clothes during his alleged heists, was convicted last week of robbing two banks and attempting to rob two others. Authorities say he stole almost $600,000, and most of that still is missing.
During trial, he had to be restrained because he threatened to walk out of the courtroom. He verbally sparred with the prosecutor, at times arguing he was a sovereign citizen of a group that was above state and federal law.
Conley pleaded guilty last October to robbing a Homewood Bank last year of nearly $4,000. Conley, who worked at the time at a suburban strip club, wore a coat and tie when he robbed the bank and had a gun stuffed in his waistband.
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