Foiled bank robber pleads guilty in court

Judge, attorney deem he is fit to enter plea five months after crime

The 65-year-old Juneau man who attempted in May to rob a branch of First National Bank on Front Street with a plastic toy gun and then asked the bank teller to call police entered a guilty plea to a second-degree robbery charge in court Wednesday.

Previously thought to be mentally unfit to enter a plea, Kenneth A. Montoya’s attorney, David Seid, said his client knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently did so on Wednesday.

“He is legally competent to enter this plea,” Seid told Juneau Superior Court Judge Phillip Pallenberg during the hearing.

Seid had requested in June for Montoya to undergo a psychiatric examination, a motion that was unopposed by the state prosecutor’s office.

Montoya in court indicated he understood he was giving up his right to a trial and his right to appeal to a higher court by pleading guilty when Pallenberg asked him a series of questions to determine his mental state.

“Do you feel like you are mentally competent to come in and plead guilty?” Pallenberg asked him. “That is, that you understand what’s going on here in court? You understand the conversations you had with your lawyer, and you understand the plea agreement?”

“Yeah” he responded.

Pallenberg added, “I know that you have some history of some connection to the mental health system ... I need to make sure you’re competent to proceed today. Do you feel like you are mentally sound? That is, your mental health allows you to understand all this, understand what’s going on here in court?”

“Yes,” Montoya replied.

Montoya was originally charged with first-degree burglary, a Class ‘A’ felony, after the bizarre May 31 incident whereupon the bank teller called the police as Montoya requested. Police apprehended him within two minutes of receiving the 911 call.

Those charges were later downgraded to a second-degree robbery, a Class ‘B’ Felony, which carries a maximum jail time of 10 years and/or a maximum fine of $100,000. A plea deal was reached between Seid and the state prosecutor’s office on Sept. 28. The agreement attached conditions to his eventual release, including the condition that Montoya would be on probation for 15 years after his release.

Pallenberg set Montoya’s sentencing hearing for Dec. 8. The court will decide what the sentence will be.

The judge noted during the hearing the presumptive sentencing for a case like this would usually be between one to three years of jail time, depending other factors. He added it might work in Montoya’s favor that he does not have a prior felony conviction.

Montoya has a past criminal record that includes Anchorage cases of public excretion in 1994, domestic violence assault in 1997, theft under $50 in 2002, criminal trespass and criminal mischief in 2003. His Juneau rap sheet includes a 1990 conviction for concealment of merchandise, and disorderly conduct and open container violations in 1989.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 532-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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