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Toy gun bank robber sentenced

Kenneth Montoya was paranoid schizophrenic and off his meds

Posted: January 11, 2012 - 12:03am

The man who tried to rob First National Bank in downtown Juneau with a plastic toy gun last spring was sentenced to serve four years in prison on Friday.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg imposed eight years with four suspended and 10 years probation for Kenneth A. Montoya, 66. The state still has 60 days to submit a claim for restitution.

Montoya was originally charged with first-degree burglary, a class ‘A’ felony, after the bizarre May 31 incident when the bank teller called the police upon Montoya’s request. Police apprehended him within two minutes of receiving the 911 call without incident.

Montoya pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in early October after a psychiatric examination found he was legally competent to enter a plea. The reduced charge was one count of second-degree robbery, a class ‘B’ Felony, which can carry up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $100,000.

Public defender David Seid told the judge on Friday that his client was a paranoid schizophrenic who was off his medication at the time of the incident. Montoya, a military veteran who had been discharged from the service due to his lifelong mental illness, was under the delusion he had cancer and had concocted the toy-gun robbery scheme to get into prison, which he thought was his only safe refuge.

“First of all, I was sick,” Montoya told Pallenberg before he issued the sentence. “... I said to myself, ‘I don’t have a safe place to go but to jail,’ so I did this. I planned this out so I could get better and get out and healthy there.”

Seid re-iterated outside the courtroom the fact that Montoya didn’t have cancer.

Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp argued that regardless of that fact, the victim in this scenario, a terrified 21-year-old bank teller, was affected by the stunt. She, and the police who responded, had no idea that the gun was a fake bought at the Ben Franklin Store across the street until police had arrested him. Kemp played the 911 phone call in which the teller sobs hysterically, and read a letter from the victim out loud in court. The teller wrote how she quit her job that same day, and still has not fully recovered from the incident as she now experiences panic attacks. The teller, who now works in a different customer service job, wrote she still panics whenever a customer reaches in their pocket just as Montoya did to show her the handle of the gun, and about how she still hasn’t forgiven Montoya for what he did.

The JPD patrol officer who responded, Matthew DuBois, said it wasn’t known what kind of gun Montoya had until it was retrieved from his pants pocket. Dubois stated that when he entered the bank, no one else (other workers, customers) were aware of what was going on and appeared distressed. Montoya had apparently slid the bank teller a note that said, “I have a gun, this is a stick up, hand me the cash.” The teller put the $8,000 on the counter, and then Montoya asked her to call police. Montoya did not resist arrest, and had his arms at his side when DuBois apprehended him.

Kemp asked the judge for 10 years with five suspended, plus 10 years probation after his release, which is the maximum the law allows for that offense.

Seid requested one year to serve, plus suspended time and conditions that include compliance with mental health medication.

“It’s evident that Mr. Montoya’s intention was to go to jail,” Pallenberg said. “... None of that lessens the impact on the victim here. None of us can really put ourselves in her shoes and know how frightening that must have been and the affect that this has had for her. That’s not something that should happen to anybody when they go to the work in the morning.”

Pallenberg noted that had the case had gone to trial, the elements of first-degree robbery likely could have been proven. The definition of first-degree robbery in statutes says there does not have to be a real actual gun, just that a person acts like that there’s a real gun, such as in this case, he said.

“I recognize Mr. Montoya’s mental health problems — one can’t ignore them. Clearly, he wasn’t thinking clearly on that day. ... But if I were to say it wasn’t a real robbery, he was only trying to get into jail, and it was motivated by his mental health difficulties ... what will have changed such that next time Mr. Montoya isn’t going to do something like that and terrify another person? ... He may well represent the same danger in the future.” Pallenberg asked.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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