Corey Ortega Banks: Remorse Is Its Own Reward (And The Defendant’s)
September 12, 2016 (Fault Lines) — “Conscience” is not a really a word that comes into play much in the world of criminal defense. “Remorse” is a bit more common, in the sense that “the defendant is remorseful for his actions,” as it tends to come up a lot in sentencing hearings. Oftentimes it’s true, though the defendant’s remorse is always filtered through the context of what’s going on. It’s easy to be remorseful when the judge is about to pass sentence.
Same goes for getting religion. No one with two brain cells to rub together to create a spark of intelligence is going to tell the judge, “That [expletive deleted] had it coming. Hail Satan!” It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lying, just that their motivation to walk the straight and narrow is likely reduced when they’re not faced with the immediate prospect of being locked in a cage or worse.
However, a defendant in Viriginia, Corey Ortega Banks, had a genuine attack of conscience and remorse. Here’s how we know it’s genuine:
A Spotsylvania County man turned himself in over the weekend for a robbery last year that police had no idea he was involved in.
Corey Ortega Banks, 30, is charged with robbery in connection with a June 2  heist at the Shell station in the 5300 block of Jefferson Davis Highway in Spotsylvania.
“I guess he had a guilty conscience,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Troy Skebo.
The details of the robbery were pretty vanilla:
According to the evidence, a man entered the Four Mile Fork Shell station in Spotsylvania on June 2 of last year and demanded money from the clerk. He told the clerk, “Don’t move! Y’all don’t do nothing. Open the register and give me the money.”
The robber got a relatively small amount of cash and left the store. No weapon was displayed, though the clerk told police the man reached inside his jacket as if he might have had one.
However, Banks was pretty much the dictionary definition of a sympathetic defendant. To begin with, he is a former Marine, and got addicted to painkillers after suffering an injury while he was in the service. He sought and received treatment for his addiction before turning himself in, and was enrolled in Bible school at the time. And the amount he got away with in the robbery was $33.
He also said all the right things when he plead guilty:
Banks said Tuesday that he is a Christian and that his conscience would not allow him to live with the secret he was keeping.
“I’m sincerely sorry for what I did,” he told the judge. “I thank God for saving me and loving me.”
The fact that he turned himself in when he could have gotten away with it tends to establish the truth behind those words. The prosecutor reduced the charges from armed robbery (5 to life) to larceny from a person (1 to 20). The prosecutor added:
“In this case, I can’t honestly say that any further incarceration would be useful,” [Commonwealth Attorney Travis] Bird said.
The judge was apparently also impressed by Banks’s desire to face his consequences like a man:
Banks, 30, was sentenced by Judge Ricardo Rigual to 10 years in prison, with all of it suspended except for the 60 days Banks has already served. Banks was also ordered to make restitution of $33 to the Four Mile Fork Shell station.
It wasn’t all sweetness and light, as the judge added:
“You will serve a considerable amount of prison time if you have another relapse.”
I’ve had a Google alert on this story since February, when Banks first turned himself in. This had the makings of a great Fault Lines post: guy tries to do the right thing and winds up getting thrown in the slammer because he got caught behind the good guy curve. (Or in this case, the repentant bad guy curve.) Banks desire to step up is admirable, nevertheless 95% of defense lawyers would have advised him not to do it, and the other five percent are morons.
This could have turned out much, much, worse. The judge, or the prosecutor might not have been quite so humane; or the mighty Hokies of Virginia Tech might have played a tougher opponent than Liberty University and lost.