Man Who Left Casino, Robbed Bank, Then Returned to Gamble Gets Sentenced

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(Associated Press) - A drug-addicted gambler who left a West Virginia casino, robbed a bank, then returned to the blackjack table was sentenced Thursday to between five and 18 years in prison.

Kerry Johnson had been at the Mardi Gras Casino in Nitro for hours Aug. 2 when he put down a $25 chip to hold his spot. Prosecutors said Johnson then drove 13 miles to a Charleston bank and gave tellers a note saying he had a bomb and a weapon and robbed it of about $5,000.

Johnson then returned to the blackjack table and resumed gambling.

Police later found Johnson at his home asleep on a couch. Prosecutors said a large sum of cash was stuffed between couch cushions, and some taken during the robbery was recovered at the blackjack table.

Johnson had said he'd taken quite a few drugs on Aug. 2 and "most of the day was a blur" but recognized himself after seeing video from the bank.

While a public defender had sought home confinement, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom said Johnson needed to be punished for his "extraordinarily risky behavior."

"We also need to send a message to the community that bank robberies are not acceptable," Bloom said.

Friends described what Johnson did as bizarre and out of character. Johnson earned $300,000 to $400,000 a year as a car salesman and dealership consultant, and he said he made "so much money that it never ran out, and it just fueled my addictions."

Johnson told the judge he had been using drugs for more than two decades and, although he had gone into rehabilitation once, his addictions continued and "the money has been lost in gambling."

"I am no bank robber. I'm no thief. I've never stolen anything my entire life," Johnson said. "I'm a bad drug addict. I'm an addicted gambler, and I'm asking for your help. I want to get better."

Public defender John Sullivan sought to have Johnson serve his sentence at his mother's home in another county a mere 100 yards from a state police post. Johnson said his worst fear was losing his aging mother while he was in prison.

Johnson, 52, who pleaded guilty in January to second-degree robbery, was given credit for seven months already served in jail.

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