"I just wanted to do something right to help my family once," Betty Jean Moyler told the judge yesterday, "and mostly it was for the holidays, and that's why I did it."
What Mrs. Moyler had done was to hand a note to a bank teller last week asking for money - what is known in the U.S. criminal code as bank robbery and punishable by 20 years in prison.
She was trying to explain it all yesterday to a federal judge, George L. Hart Jr. By the time she was finished with her explanation, members of Hart's courtroom staff were crying.
"Sir, to be honestly spoken, I was pushed," she told the judge when he asked her why she robbed the bank. Her grandmother's illness had forced her to quit her job as a cashier and she had four children at home, she said.
"I figured that was the best thing for me to do. I tried so many ways. I have written for help. I had tried to start projects to help to financially aid my family, and the family living with me, and I have been under a lot of pressure . . .," said Moyler, 26, who lives at 66 T St. NW.
"But I didn't really want to hurt anyone . . . and I know what I did was wrong, and the way I was taught, when you are wrong you have to be punished for what you done."
Routinely in federal court here, defendants are sent to the probation office for a presentence report so a judge will know every detail about their past. Hart suggested yesterday, however, that Mrs. Moyler forego that requirement.
Her attorney, David C. Woll, agreed. "I think this one was at the bottom of the depression and frustration, and this is what prompted her to do what she did," Woll said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Rolstacher, who had just outlined the case against Moyler, also agreed. She had, after all, taken only $110 from the bank and had turned down the American Security and Trust Co.'s offer to give her even more money during the robbery at its branch at 1400 1st St. NE.
She next went to a credit union at 1502 North Capitol St. near the bank, and tried to pass a similar note there. She left, Roistacher said, after the teller asked her if she was serious about the robbery attempt.
Police arrested her/at Lincoln Road and R Street NE a few minutes later, and she was quickly identified since she was still wearing the brown cloth coat she had worn during the robbery and the attempted robbery. She had not carried a weapon, but had told the two financial institutions she was "wired" - a term she said meant merely someone outside the bank might be listening into the robbery conversation.
Before sentencing Mrs. Moyler, Hart asked her if there was anything else she wanted to say. Mrs. Moyler said there was:
"I had a talk with my mother before I came here, and hurt my family and my children and my husband . . . The best thing I could do was put my faith in God and try to go the best from there after this.
"I can't say I am sorry, because I have already expressed it in so many ways how ashamed I am. It only goes to show you when you do wrong you cannot get right by it."
Hart imposed only two years' probation on Mrs. Moyler, and told the probation office to give "special consideration" to her case. The government suggested psychiatric counseling as well.
It was, said Judge Hart, the "saddest case" he had seen in his 20 years on the bench.