Rob­ber who fled in taxi gets prison time

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DAVE HUGHES

FORT SMITH — A Ber­ryville man who robbed a bank, used a taxi as a get­away car and then used the money from the rob­bery to buy a mo­tor­cy­cle from a Bentonville po­lice of­fi­cer’s son was sen­tenced Wed­nes­day to nine months in fed­eral prison.

“It’s al­most a funny case if it had hap­pened to some­one else,” Hunter Cody Chafin’s at­tor­ney, James Pierce, told western Arkansas’ Chief U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III dur­ing a sen­tenc­ing hear­ing.

Chafin, 20, pleaded guilty in March to the bank rob­bery charge.

Chafin could have been sen­tenced to more than three years, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral sen­tenc­ing guide­lines. Pierce ar­gued rather than lock­ing up his client for an ex­tended amount of time, it would be bet­ter to try to re­ha­bil­i­tate Chafin, who was 19 on Oct. 14 when he robbed the First Na­tional Bank of North Arkansas in Eureka Springs.

Chafin, tall and thin with short, dark-brown hair and dark-rimmed glasses, sat at the de­fense ta­ble in an orange Se­bas­tian County jail uni­form, turn­ing of­ten to look at his grand­par­ents and other fam­ily mem­bers in the au­di­ence and oc­ca­sion­ally ex­chang­ing mouthed words with them. Af­ter the hear­ing, he glanced over once more to­ward his fam­ily as he was be­ing led away.

Al­though he noted Chafin’s ac­tions put the bank teller in fear for her safety, Holmes said he be­lieved Chafin was a good can­di­date for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. He sen­tenced Chafin to 18 months in prison and gave him credit for the nine months he sat in jail since his ar­rest.

He also or­dered Chafin work to­ward ob­tain­ing his Gen­eral Ed­u­ca­tional De­vel­op­ment di­ploma, sub­mit to sub­stance abuse treat­ment and coun­sel­ing, and to men­tal health eval­u­a­tion and treat­ment if or­dered.

Pierce de­scribed Chafin’s ac­tions as im­ma­ture, child­ish and naive. He re­counted in court Chafin en­tered the bank and asked the teller if he had any money in his bank ac­count. He then left the bank but re­turned min­utes later and pre­sented the teller with a note de­mand­ing money and warn­ing he had a gun. Ac­tu­ally, he was un­armed.

Af­ter leav­ing the bank, he got into the taxi he ar­rived in and had the driver take him to a home in Bentonville where he bought a mo­tor­cy­cle for $2,900, pay­ing with money he took in the rob­bery.

Af­ter Chafin drove off, the seller’s fa­ther, a Bentonville po­lice of­fi­cer, re­ceived a phone call from the de­part­ment that a taxi driver dropped off a rob­bery sus­pect at his ad­dress. Of­fi­cers chased down Chafin and ar­rested him.

Pierce ar­gued dur­ing the hear­ing Chafin had lit­tle sup­port and few role mod­els in his life to guide him in his early years. His mother used metham­phetamine while she was preg­nant with him. She also has been in and out of prison most of his life and is in­car­cer­ated now, Pierce said.

Chafin’s fa­ther, who died last year, was para­noid schiz­o­phrenic and phys­i­cally abu­sive, Pierce said.

Chafin and his sis­ter were raised by their grand­par­ents who weren’t equipped to deal with the emo­tional trauma Chafin suf­fered.

“His grand­par­ents did ev­ery­thing they could to get this ship back on an even keel,” Pierce said.

Chafin be­gan drink­ing when he was 15, used mar­i­juana since he was 16 and dropped out of school af­ter the 10th grade, Pierce wrote in a sen­tenc­ing mem­o­ran­dum.

He sug­gested in the mem­o­ran­dum Chafin be en­rolled in a fed­eral Bu­reau of Pris­ons pro­gram, the Shock In­car­cer­a­tion Pro­gram, that would put him on a reg­i­mented sched­ule, pro­vide strict dis­ci­pline, phys­i­cal train­ing, hard la­bor, drill and cer­e­mony “char­ac­ter­is­tic of mil­i­tary ba­sic train­ing.”

It also would pro­vide job train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams, and drug, al­co­hol and other coun­sel­ing.

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