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June 21, 2011

Desperate sick man commits $1 bank robbery to get health care in prison

Throughout the modern health care reform debates, I have often joked with students that the United States has long had a single-payer health-care system for all persons in every jurisdiction, but one needs to commit a serious crime in order to get admitted to this (prison-based) single-payer system.  This joke has a serious side through this remarkable local story from North Carolina headlined "Bank robber planned crime and punishment."  Here are the details:

James Richard Verone woke up June 9 with a sense of anticipation. He took a shower. Ironed his shirt. Hailed a cab. Then robbed a bank.

He wasn’t especially nervous. If anything, Verone said he was excited to finally execute his plan to gain access to free medical care. “I prepared myself for this,” Verone said from behind a thick glass window in the Gaston County Jail Thursday morning. Verone spoke calmly about the road that led him to a jail cell he shares with a young man arrested for stealing computers....

Until last week Verone had never been in trouble with the law. Now he hopes to be booked as a felon and held in prison where he can be treated for several physical afflictions.

Verone worked for Coca-Cola for 17 years. He prided himself on keeping his nose to the grindstone. Don’t make enemies. Sell the product. Make your deliveries and stick to your schedule. When his career as a cola delivery man ended some three years ago, Verone was knocked out of his comfort zone.... Not his first choice, Verone became a convenience store clerk. But the bending, standing and lifting were too much for him. The Gastonia man’s back ached; problems with his left foot caused him to limp. His knuckles swelled from arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome made daily tasks difficult. Then he noticed a protrusion on his chest.

Strapped for cash, Verone looked into filing for disability. He applied for early Social Security. The only thing Verone qualified for was food stamps. The extra money helped, but he felt desperate. He needed to get medical attention, and he refused to be a burden on his sister and brothers. “The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept,” he said. “I kind of hit a brick wall with everything.”

A couple of months ago Verone started weighing his options. He considered turning to a homeless shelter and seeking medical help through charitable organizations. Then he had another idea: commit a crime and get set up with a place to stay, food and doctors.

He started planning. As his bank account depleted and the day of execution got closer, Verone sold and donated his furniture. He paid his last month’s rent and gave his notice. He moved into the Hampton Inn for the last couple of days. Then on June 9 he followed his typical morning routine of getting ready for the day. He took a cab down New Hope Road and picked a bank at random — RBC Bank.

Verone didn’t want to scare anyone. He executed the robbery the most passive way he knew how. He handed the teller a note demanding one dollar, and medical attention. “I didn’t have any fears,” said Verone. “I told the teller that I would sit over here and wait for police.”

The teller, however, did have some fears even though Verone never showed a weapon. Her blood pressure shot up and once Verone was handcuffed by police, the teller was taken to Gaston Memorial Hospital to be checked out. Verone said he was sorry for causing the woman any pain....

Verone says he’s not a political man. But he has a lot to say on the subject of socialized medical care. He suspects he wouldn’t be talking to a reporter through a metal screen wearing an orange jumpsuit if such an option were available in the U.S....

The man has high hopes with his recent incarceration. He has seen several nurses and has an appointment with a doctor Friday. The ideal scenario would include back and foot surgery and a diagnosis and treatment of the protrusion on his chest, he said. He would serve a few years in prison and get out in time to collect Social Security and move to the beach.

Because he only demanded $1, he was charged with larceny from a person. Still a felony, the count doesn’t carry as much jail time as bank robbery. The bearded, gray-haired man plans to represent himself in court. He’s trying not to get too confident about his knowledge of the legal system. He just wants to prepare a statement for the judge and then take whatever active sentence he is given. Verone is considering an ultimatum if the penalty isn’t great enough, he said. The crime will happen again.

The day Verone set out to commit his first felony, he mailed a letter to The Gazette. He listed the return address as the Gaston County Jail. “When you receive this a bank robbery will have been committed by me. This robbery is being committed by me for one dollar,” he wrote. “I am of sound mind but not so much sound body.”

Verone wanted to talk to a reporter to make sure people knew why he turned to crime. He figured he had nothing to lose. “I knew that a felony would not hurt me. I cannot work anymore,” he said. “That felony is going to hurt my reputation.”

June 21, 2011 at 02:12 PM | Permalink


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I have a few clients over the years who have done the same thing for health care. Shame on us.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Jun 22, 2011 1:52:20 AM

Shame on the Left for the cheap, tawdry dramatics. This is from the Guardian, a Commie propaganda outlet.

If Commie Care prevails, everyone over 40 will feel the pain of denial of care and long waits. For example, Commie Care killed Princess Diana. No EMT, no telemetry from the scene, not even the Jaws of Life. Certainly no helicopter ride to preserve the Golden Hour , and no specialized, trauma center. It took an hour and a half to travel the four miles to the academic medical center (where inexperienced scholars awaited). These Commies did street resuscitation on a traaua victim, the dunces, markedly accelerating her internal bleeding. Commie Care is cheap care, and over forty, you no longer worth anything alive, just a liability.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 22, 2011 3:29:22 AM

If you like the government health care of prison, you will love Obama Care.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 22, 2011 3:30:15 AM

It is extremely sad. I really believe that this speaks far more to the extreme poverty of many in our country and in our prisons, rather than to any semblance of adequacy of prison healthcare. This man's plight is similar to those whom I met in prison who were desperately relieved that, even in shackles and a cell, they were no longer homeless.

I don't know what prison healthcare is like in North Carolina, where this man is from. But if he were in California, he would be deeply disappointed about his prison "healthcare" . As a prisoner in several facilities, I saw women subjected to invasive and ultimately harmful treatments that had seemingly nothing to do with their reason for seeking medical care, and years later, those procedures remain medically unfounded. In prison, women often returned from medical appointments unhealed, hurting more, and in such distress that many sought never to seek prison medical care again, no matter what the consequences. It was a difficult and daunting task to avoid illness in a grossly over-crowded prison environment, but I knew many women who avoided medical clinic to the extent of harming themselves permanently. A far bigger overhaul is still critically needed- theoretically and in practice - to deal with our prisons’ harmful healthcare legacy, both for prisoners and staff.

Posted by: cdcrsurvivor | Jun 22, 2011 4:06:17 AM

Now the man in the article can become a campaigner for the Democratic party, and cover health insurance by his speaking fees.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 22, 2011 5:18:34 AM

I have no law background, and am not a student or professor. I am only a reader interested in the direction our courts and legal systems are taking. And referred here long ago by other non-law persons who, like me, sometimes sense some compassion and wisdom in your blog.

But some of the reader comments on this story reflect a lack of compassion that is becoming more and more acceptable in the US today. A man resorts to this desperate cry for help, and it provokes political antagonism instead of compassion? What is wrong with us?

This isn't about the quality of prison health care. It is about the affordability of health care.

And it isn't about Diana or "commie" anything. It is about the fact that our own citizens must resort to crime, in order to secure health care that could save their lives, in this country.

And until attitudes that prompt the "shame on the left" type of responses to this tragedy change, we will continue to witness a failure to act on behalf of those citizens that have no voice in the democratic process.

Posted by: JustSue | Jun 22, 2011 12:51:22 PM

Yes, anyone who thinks prison healthcare is a step above public health care really needs to experience it first hand. Believe me, those that are incarcerated are not getting a free ride as far as health care is concerned. They get the bare minimum. As cdcrsur... states above it's more of a struggle just trying to stay healthy in a crowded environment like that because of the spottiness of access to healthcare and the level of care provided. You could be waiting for months just to have dental work done let alone any type of medical procedures. Many times there's a real feeling by those seeking medical care of indifference by the 'gatekeepers' in the system just to get access to qualified medical care in many institutions.

Posted by: james | Jun 22, 2011 12:59:37 PM

Great idea SC; if Bristol Palin can become rich and famous as a spokesperson for abstinence, surely this man can earn enough off his experiences to live his remaining years in some resemblance of comfort.

Posted by: C | Jun 22, 2011 1:02:48 PM

JusstSue: You may be younger than 40. I would understand your misplaced emotional response to this criminal. You are really pitiless on those who need care and may be older than 40, when an organ will fail every 2 or 3 years. If a Princess had no chance and was assassinated by the inadequacy and cheapness of Commie Care, what chance do ordinary people like us have?

They did not even have Jaws of Life, a $1200 instrument with which the least qualified EMT practices for 9 hours minimum on crushed junk cars. Princess was conscious and talking for half an hour, as they futzed with her in that car for 45 minutes, when she should have been extricated and on a helicopter flying to a full trauma center in 10 minutes. In the poorest slum in the US, she would have taken the elevator from the roof straight to the OR, where a Board certified Thoracic Surgeon would already know all about her condition from telemetry, and would have found her torn artery in a few more minutes.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 22, 2011 11:56:11 PM


What about the healthcare in the UK and our northern neighbor, Canada? Are they also experiencing Commie Care that you speak of; i. e., they do not even have jaws of life, etc.? There is a fine line between everything - and there are pros and cons to every public program. The moral of the newspaper article, which you apparently (and sadly) missed is that while the big companies get multitrillion-dallar bailout funds, these little guys get nothing. And we are fighting three wars costing us more than a hundred billion dollars (directly and indirectly) with absolutely no benefit to us. I do not want my money to be used for being the big brother to some despot soemwhere in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the like, to which I have no connection. Oh, please do not tell me that we are preventing terrorism. We foster terrorists, when it suits us, and when they turn against us, we simply eliminate them at very great cost. (Remember Mujahaideens?) Guess who is paying for those "misadventures"? Yes, you guessed it! James Richard Verone in the newspaper article, inter alios, are the ones paying for it! Let us take care of "our" people first - Commie, or no Commie!

JustSue, you are absolutely correct about the prison healthcare. (It is actually below "bare minimum.") It is beyond dismal - more like abysmal!

Posted by: John Marshall | Jun 23, 2011 2:27:39 AM

I am sorry that I erred by not mentioning your name in my response, which was intended to be directed at you in addition to JustSue. Mea Culpa!

Posted by: John Marshall | Jun 23, 2011 3:06:12 AM

John: Al Qaeda killed our people and took $7 trillion out of our economy on 9/11. So whether the $trillion spent on foreign wars is wise or not is debatable. I see your points. The article has a bad faith stealth agenda, which is to use an individual's plight to score propaganda points on behalf of Commie Care. Commie Care will dwarf 1000 9/11's if allowed to take place. There is no higher return on investment than health care. You invest $1000 into doctors' visits and medication and return to your $50,000 a year job. That is 5000% return on investment, for life, and guaranteed. That is a greater return than buying a gun and robbing a bank. So health care deserves our protection from government takeover. Anyone who loves prison health care will love Obama Care. The prison is at least deterred by limits on degraded care by fear of litigation. The fed gov will be immune.

I discussed the care a Princess received in France. Care is no better in England nor in Canada. A high government official of Canada, using his own money, had his heart operation in Florida. I will pray you never get sick if Obama Care is allowed to take place. You should try to not age if it does.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 23, 2011 9:33:35 PM

I am NOT at all advocating government-sponsored healthcare. However, the sad reality in our country is that medical costs have skyroceketed (perhaps due - in great part - to ambulance chasers and other tort shysters.) Unfortunately, some instances of medical care (i. e., lack thereof) unquestionably deserve to be sued out of existence. Is there a realistic way to address the healthcare issue? I do not know. Perhaps the Government can run a program like it does the FDIC for the banks, or RTC for savings & Loans! However, it may be another boondoggle just like the TARP was. Only now do the shenanigans perpetrated by the TARP actors are coming to light. Just wait for a few years more, and I would not be surprised at all if we saw a wave of criminal indictments and concomitant lengthy sentences. The problem I really am afraid of is nurturing anything government-run is creating a Frankenstein. (I am just thinking aloud and not proposing anything. Can you see my wringing my hands in despair?) I hear you, buddy! I do not have the answers!

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