Christopher M. Cline was 13 when police first charged him with theft, according to court records.
Before he turned 18, Cline, who grew up in North Potomac, accumulated a list of charges that included auto theft, assault and malicious destruction of property -- 11 in all, some of which were dropped and some of which landed him on probation.
In 1999, when he was 23, Cline pleaded guilty in federal court in Greenbelt to bank robbery and was sentenced to a prison term. He ended up in a Baltimore halfway house, where he became addicted to crack cocaine, authorities said. To pay for that habit, they alleged in court, Cline began robbing banks.
He was arrested yesterday and charged with robbing one bank and attempting to rob another in Silver Spring, and Montgomery County authorities publicly identified him as a suspect in nine other holdups in Prince George's, Howard and Baltimore counties. No weapon was displayed in any of the holdups, authorities said.
Appearing in Montgomery District Court yesterday, Cline was ordered held without bond after State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler described him as "desperate" for drugs and for money to pay for them.
"This is a man that stayed on the lam even though his name was in every newspaper," Gansler said, referring to a bank surveillance photo that was distributed recently to news organizations. "He knew he was wanted."
Cline is charged with attempting to rob a Chevy Chase Bank branch in the 11200 block of New Hampshire Avenue on Nov. 12 and, on the same day, robbing a SunTrust Bank branch in the 12500 block of Prosperity Drive. He is accused of passing notes to tellers demanding money and saying that he had a gun. It is not clear how much was stolen.
Robin Ficker, Cline's attorney, criticized the state's case against his client, saying outside the courthouse that Gansler was "trying to spin a web to catch a fly in this case, and he may have got the wrong fly."
Joseph Cline, 57, the suspect's father, said: "I'm sorry. I'm sorry it happened. I'm just glad nobody got hurt."
Bank robbery cases usually are handled in federal court. But yesterday, Gansler took an apparent jab at Maryland's top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio, with whom Gansler feuded in 2002 after the arrests of the Washington area snipers.
"Our office and the other local prosecutors have serious concerns about the competence of the current United States attorney in Maryland," Gansler said in court. He said that he did not have concerns about DiBiagio's staff and suggested that despite his "concerns" about DiBiagio, he would not fight a move by federal prosecutors to take over the Cline case.
DiBiagio's spokeswoman, Vickie LeDuc, said, "We have the overwhelming support of the state's attorney's offices in this area for the leadership of our office and for our prosecution priorities."
Bank robberies frequently are prosecuted and investigated by federal authorities, particularly those that span several jurisdictions.
Cline's history with the police, as laid out in documents filed in Montgomery Circuit Court, began May 22, 1989, when he was charged with an unspecified traffic offense that was later dropped. He was 12 years old.
On Nov. 11, 1989, at age 13, Cline was charged with theft of goods worth less than $300, and the case was dropped a month later for reasons not specified in the court file. He was charged again with that crime eight months later, and the charges were dismissed in court.
On April 4, 1991, Cline was charged with assault and battery and was placed on probation. In June 1994, he was charged with auto theft, and a month later, he was charged with auto theft again, according to court documents. The disposition of those charges was unclear yesterday.
Cline was convicted in October 1994 of robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon and sentenced to 18 months in jail and four years of supervised probation, according to court records. In July 1998, before his probation was finished, he was convicted in Howard County of theft of goods worth less than $300 and sentenced to three years' probation. Four months later, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail for violating probation.
According to court records, Cline had been in and out of psychological and drug treatment programs since his early teens.
In a 1995 letter to Montgomery Circuit Court Judge William M. Cave, Cline wrote that his time in jail for robbery with a dangerous weapon had made him "wake up and realize what I really have with my family's support and love."
The letter, written in support of a request by Cline's attorneys to lighten his sentence, continued: "I know that I can not continue to let drugs get the better of me. I also realize that the people I was associating with are not good for me."
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.