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‘Secondhand Bandit’ convicted of four bank heists

Updated: January 15, 2013 11:36AM



The FBI dubbed him the “Secondhand Bandit,” but Jose Banks turned out to be a third-rate lawyer.

A federal jury on Thursday took just two hours to find the prolific 37-year-old bank robber guilty of four heists — a verdict likely made easier by Banks’ decision to fire his attorneys and represent himself.

Convicted of violently robbing two North Side banks and attempting to rob two others while wearing thrift-store disguises, Banks is suspected of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in more than 20 robberies between 2004 and 2008.

But the Evanston resident’s unlikely main defense during his four-day trial was that he’s a “Moorish national” exempt from federal law.

He called no witnesses, didn’t cross examine any government witnesses, and visibly angered Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer with his often comical attempts to disrupt his trial.

At one point, he even had to be strapped to a wheelchair by deputy U.S. Marshals when he tried to leave the courtroom.

Perhaps attempting to make up for that bad impression, Banks wore a suit in court for the first time Thursday. But the natty gray double-breasted jacket and lavender shirt he donned didn’t make his courtroom demeanor any more somber than the orange prison-issue jumpsuit he’d worn for the rest of his trial.

“They didn’t prove nothing!” Banks told jurors as Pallmeyer cut his closing argument short for repeatedly ignoring her orders to stick to the facts in evidence.

“They finished their story ... I want to finish my side of the story,” he exclaimed.

Relatives and supporters watching in the courtroom nodded vigorously and stage-whispered “yes” when Banks’ fired attorney, Beau Brindley, offered to step in and try to salvage the situation, but Banks declined the offer.

After all 12 jurors confirmed that they’d found Banks guilty, he vowed that he would be “seeking retribution,” telling the judge he was unhappy she had “allowed” the Sun-Times to report on his case. “You’ll hear from me!,” said Banks who faces a hefty prison sentence at a March 26 hearing..

He then blew a kiss to his family as he was led back into the lock-up.



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