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October 3, 2022

A sadder Pennsylvania variation on Going in Style with elderly, ill, repeat bank robber

GoingHollywood has now twice made the movie Going in Style about a group of elderly gentlemen facing who decide to become bank robbers when facing hard financial times.  I recall getting a big kick out of the 1979 version of the movie as a kid, and I did not think quick as much about the 2017 version as an adult.  This movie came to my mind upon reading this local sad press piece, headlined "Pa. man says he robbed bank to stay in prison, not be an imposition to family," about a recent Pennsylvania state sentencing:

A 60-year-old man says he robbed a bank in Lycoming County so he would remain in jail and not burden the family with whom he has not had contact in 30 years with his medical bills. Robert A. Jones, after pleading guilty to a robbery charge Monday, told county Judge Ryan Tira his health is declining.

The judge expressed concern about Jones’ mental health but proceeded to sentence him to 45 to 90 months in state prison in accordance with the plea agreement. Restitution of $2,000 also was ordered.

Police recovered $3,000 of the $5,000 taken in the Sept. 6 robbery when Jones was arrested the next day at the halfway house in the Harrisburg area where he was living. When authorities confronted with a search warrant, Jones is alleged to have responded: “I have nothing to hide, this is my final chapter.” He was within two months of being released from the halfway house, it was noted in court.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” his public defender Howard B. Gold said. “He prefers to spend the remaining years of his life in state prison.” Tira said he could not relate to Jones’ decision. Jones had been paroled on June 28, 2021, from the 15- to 30-year robbery sentence imposed in 2008 in Lackawanna County. He claimed when arrested last month he had robbed two dozen banks since the 1990s. Records confirm numerous charges in state and federal courts.

The Sept. 6 robbery was at the Jersey Shore State Bank office in Jersey Shore. The robber was wearing a surgical mask and a yellow rain jacket when he handed a note to a teller that stated, “this is a robbery” and then told her to “just remember your training.” He was handed $5,000 in $100, $50 and $20 bills and then left the bank.

Jones was observed on surveillance video running away from the bank and while cutting through a parking lot removing a yellow jacket. Shortly after he disappeared, a 1999 Toyota Camry appeared and a video showed a yellow object in the back seat. The license plate was visible so police were able to determine the car was owned by Jones....

Surveillance video showed Jones removing a black bag from the Camry in the halfway house parking lot and taking it inside. He was wearing clothing similar to that of the robber. Found inside the vehicle, police said, was a yellow rain jacket, beige colored hat, medical mask and more than $3,000 in currency.

Jones told Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Officer Justin Segura this was the end of the road, it was a call for help and he had no intent to harm anyone in the bank, the arrest affidavit states. The state Parole Board has lodged a detainer against Jones so could face more court action.

October 3, 2022 at 04:58 PM | Permalink


Thanks for reminding me about the earlier version of the film. I do remember seeing it after a bit of refresher data on imdb.com.

And what I remember about it was the muddled and inconclusive ending. It was not (for me) a satisfying film to watch.

The modern version of Going in Style is another story, however. Great acting, great everything. Lots more human interest backstory.

And of course a conclusive and satisfying ending.

That said, both films in my view would have little to do with the case you reference. Well, he is old. But also totally alone. He wants to stay in prison where the care is best for him at his age. That's not a part of either movie (from what I can remember about the first one).

So, while your story about the sad guy (not sure what is sad about an old guy with a long criminal record wanting to stay in prison. The youngsters call it "state-raised" but that's their early lives of juvie I suppose. Anyway, you think that's sad for some reason.) was interesting to read about. It's disconnected from either movie.

Thanks for sharing though.

You asked for a brief identifier. I am an ex-victim of the US "justice" system, and have done light time in California--once in the 80s; once more in the 2000's--This latest insanity was reversed and vacated by US Supreme Court ruling, and I had further help from the Ohio Supreme Court (had to wait over 4 years though).

I believe in the law and have been an avid fan of mostly the old fiction of Earle Stanley Garner, though some of what John Grisham and Connoley write I have read. I also correspond with excessively incarcerated friends I made during my last "stay." But it doesn't take much for me to understand the law and how it works and how it's supposed to work.
So in this case I feel completely qualified to make comments on your blog.

All the Best,

Posted by: restless94110 | Oct 4, 2022 8:44:08 AM

Thanks for your comment, restless94110. I suppose I was mostly thinking about the very end of the 1979 movie, where the George Burns character is alone --- his co-conspirators have both died when on the run from their bank robbery --- and in prison. He visits with the son of his co-conspirator and says he is fairly content in prison where he has more "family" inside than outside. (Here is a quote from IMDB: "Here I've got my own cell, with a toilet and a sink. Food's okay, and I'm feeling good. As a matter of fact, they treat me like a king around here. Everyone comes around to talk, and they all want to do me favors.") And, of course, the crime is a bank robbery in all cases.

I always recalled that last 1979 movie scene as a reminder that, at least for some people, inside prison may be a better place to be than outside prison. That is what the robber in this real case seems to believe.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 4, 2022 9:23:13 AM

I knew several men like this from prison. They become conditioned to the comfortable predictability of prison life, and cannot really function back in the "Free World" after decades in prison. I know a man who spent time at the Dismas Charities Halfway House in Lexington, Ky., after having spent more than 30 years at Leavenworth Penitentiary for having committed a series of armed bank robberies. During his time in prison, he was educated and trained as a welder, so when he was released from prison to the halfway house he found a job that paid him $23 per hour to start about 2009. Yet, within a few months of being released from the Halfway House, he was in the news for having robbed a bank in Eastern Kentucky. He got caught within an hour of the robbery and was returned to prison.

Another man was sentenced at age 19 to 60 years in a North Carolina state prison for armed robbery and "standing kidnapping" (he told the customers they couldn't leave the store while he was robbing it). While he was serving his time, the North Carolina legislature changed the law, and his 60 year sentence was cut in half to 30 years. After serving 25 years, at age 45, he was paroled out. He was taken in by a church congregation, which gave him everything a released convict could want: a job, a house to live in, a pickup truck to drive, invitations to homes for meals and fellowship, clothes and groceries. And yet, 5 months after being released from state prison, he robbed a bank and got caught. He didn't need the money. But he just couldn't deal with life in the Free World. Perversely, his Federal Judge was the same judge had sentenced him in the North Carolina state court 26 years earlier. This time, the convict received a life sentence in Federal prison and his North Carolina parole was revoked.

My last example is a 43 year old black inmate from Southeast D.C. He had been in and out of juvenile detention, jail and prison since he was 15 years old. He had spent only about 4 years in the Free World in 28 years. While Federal inmates have not been paroleable since 1988, D.C. inmates remain paroleable. The D.C. Parole Board granted this inmate parole about 2006. The BOP took him to the Greyhound Bus Station in Orlando and gave him a prepaid bus ticket to D.C. and $60 in cash to buy food with during his trip. He walked across the street to a restaurant, had 2 mixed drinks and a nice meal, spent the whole $60 and paid his check. He then walked over to a table in the restaurant where a woman was eating dinner with her daughter, pulled out his penis and began masturbating. He was apprehended by the police and returned to U. S. Penitentiary -1, in Florida within 2 hours and his parole was revoked. What he did was a "check in move", buy a man who is so conditioned to prison life that the thought of living in the Free World terrifies him.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Oct 4, 2022 12:00:10 PM

Jim, thanks for posting those stories.

Posted by: Mp | Oct 4, 2022 1:14:07 PM

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