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Bank robber misses jail, heads home

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Life on the outside can be tough.

During his trial for robbing a Richmond bank, Maurice Emile, a 32-year-old Pennsylvania man with a string of convictions, compared himself to a character in the movie ‘The Shawshank Redemption,’ who couldn’t get used to life out of prison. He told the jury he’d become ‘institutionalized,” Richmond Police Department Officer Ryan Nixon said.

“He was very pleasant,” Nixon said, laughing. “He kept praising me. . .He was apologizing to everyone.”

Emile said the officer “did great work,” catching him, and urged a detective to try to get Nixon a raise.

Emile apologized to the SunTrust Bank teller who got his note demanding cash last April. He apologized to the jurors who weren’t selected. “They were leaving and he was saying, ‘I apologize to y’all for wasting your day today,’” Nixon said. “It was so surreal.”

Emile had been on a bank-robbing spree up and down the east coast, Nixon said, when he passed through Richmond and hit up a bank there. But the teller slipped a GPS device into the nearly $3,000 cash she handed him, so officers who took up the chase were getting slightly delayed signals of everywhere Emile went.

Nixon stopped traffic on I-95 knowing the suspect was somewhere nearby, and walked amongst the cars searching for a clue. He had a physical description and when he saw a man staring straight ahead, smoking a cigarette with both hands gripping the steering wheel, he went over to his car.

Emile had cash stuffed in his pants, wads of twenty-dollar-bills spilling out over his belt.

Money for tolls, he told the officer.

Pretty convinced he had found the suspect, Nixon was starting to get a little nervous as he waited for another officer to arrive to back him up.

But when Nixon began to cuff him, Emile told him, “You got me.”

“He said, ‘Go ahead and call the feds, they’ve got other warrants on me,’” Nixon said.

He told Nixon they could put him in jail for 100 years.

He wanted to go back, he said.

And he told Nixon all the money was in his jeans; when Nixon reached up the leg by his ankle, thousands of dollars came fluttering out.

Emile was sent to Richmond City Jail. In a trial this week, bemused jury members listened to him describe circling the bank twice after robbing it, and how he believed many convicts try to get back to the prison after being released.

“He wanted to get caught,” said jury foreman Tracy Carlmark, who works for a furniture company in Colonial Heights. “He didn’t really want to commit a crime. He just wanted to go back to jail.

“It was kind of a sad case,” she said.

But it had its share of nonsensical, sweet and ridiculous moments, too.

She laughed. “It was like a circus to me.”

Emile was convicted of robbery, and the jury split initially on whether to give him just a few years – probably because he was such a likeable character, she said – or the full 20. “Why should we give him lower?” she said people asked. “He’s just going to go out and do it again, he’s already said so in so many words.”

They compromised, recommending 12 years. Formal sentencing is in January.

“He needs,” Carlmark said, “to be back in jail.”

What the jury didn’t know: In September, jailers accidentally set him loose.

He immediately went to the same bank, according to police, and robbed it again.

Maybe he got his wish. He was caught within two hours of leaving the jail, a couple of blocks from the bank.

He didn’t run, Nixon said, he just gave up. And he was taken back in.

© The Washington Post Company