Alleged bank robber agrees to plead guilty

Suspect waives right to have judge, jury find probable cause

Posted: Sunday, October 23, 2005

The 32-year-old Juneau man accused of robbing a downtown bank on Oct. 12 is scheduled to enter a plea agreement Monday.

Neil Haapala was arrested about six hours after the robbery at the First National Bank of Alaska, 238 Front St. Police allege the robber handed tellers a note, signed "Neil," demanding that they "please" give him the money - "or bam," Juneau Superior Court records show. He was charged with first-degree robbery, second-degree robbery and second-degree theft.

Assistant District Attorney Jack Schmidt said Friday afternoon that Haapala agreed to plead guilty Monday in Superior Court to second-degree robbery and admit to probation violations.

He said there was no indication that Haapala used a weapon in the robbery, although the original first-degree theft charge would apply with even the threat of a weapon.

Haapala waived his right to have a grand jury or judge determine if probable cause existed to indict him on the charges, Schmidt said.

"We'll be asking for four years (to serve)," for the second-degree robbery charge, he said. The usual sentence for the original first-degree robbery charge would be 10 to 14 years.

Haapala was released from prison on Sept. 29, after Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins sentenced him to serve four months on a felony charge of making terroristic threats. The charge alleged that in June he claimed to have a bomb in his room at the Juneau Super 8 Motel. No bomb was found.

He was accused of violating his probation by not reporting to a probation officer within a day of his release. Schmidt said Haapala also is facing the 14 months suspended from that conviction and 130 days suspended from a misdemeanor reckless driving conviction.

Haapala is accused of fleeing the Oct. 12 bank robbery on foot with a duffel bag holding about $4,400 in what bank officials described as "unfit currency," according to court records. The currency consisted of Canadian money and worn U.S. bills that the bank was collecting for destruction at the Federal Reserve.

Police reported finding a duffel bag in a garbage room at the Gastineau Apartments, across Franklin Street in the direction Haapala was seen fleeing. It held no money, but it had Haapala's first and last names in it, according to police.

Officers later found that Haapala had checked into the Airport Travelodge, where they arrested him at about 9:30 p.m.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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