Robber who fled in taxi gets prison time
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.