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One Of Two Escaped Bank Robbers Captured; Second Still On The Run

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Joseph "Jose" Banks escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, along with his cellmate, on Dec. 18, 2012. (Credit: FBI)

Joseph “Jose” Banks escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, along with his cellmate, on Dec. 18, 2012. (Credit: FBI)

Updated 12/21/12 – 11:10 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – One of two convicted bank robbers who escaped from the federal jail in downtown Chicago this week was captured Thursday night.

The FBI said Joseph “Jose” Banks, 37, was arrested without incident at about 11:30 p.m. in the 2300 block of North Bosworth Avenue. Banks’ cellmate, Kenneth Conley, who escaped with Banks early Tuesday morning, remained at large as of Friday morning.

Banks appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney I. Schenkier on Friday morning on a charge of escaping from federal custody. If convicted, he would face up to five extra years in prison, on top of whatever sentence he receives for his bank robbery conviction.

His wrists and ankles were in shackles during his court appearance, when he spoke quietly in a room filled with federal agents and employees of the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Banks’ attorney, Beau Brindley, said “Jose Banks is not a violent person. He’s been characterized that way. I think that is a mischaracterization.”

Brindley also denied Banks ever threatened the judge who presided over his bank robbery trial. He said, when Banks told the judge after his conviction, “you’ll hear from me again,” he was referring to filing post-trial motions, not making threats.

“That was taken out of context. He was presented in a very sensationalized way, in my view, to make him look like he was supremely dangerous for the purpose of making this a more exciting story,” Brindley said.

During his trial, Banks represented himself and reportedly was disruptive several times, and tried to walk out of the courtroom at one point, prompting the judge to have him restrained to a wheelchair.

While Banks was on the loose, the FBI and U.S. Marshals’ Service offered special protection to the judge and prosecutors from Banks’ trial, because of the alleged threats.

More than two days after his escape from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Banks was found Thursday night in a ground level apartment on Bosworth Avenue, just south of Fullerton Avenue.

Witnesses said they heard a loud bang when police and federal agents knocked down a door at the apartment building to arrest Banks.

“It was a frantic situation,” Drama Fox said. “The kids were scared, of course; they’re young kids, very young kids.”

Dennisha Franklin said authorities placed shackles on Banks’ wrists and ankles, but he did not struggle when he was arrested.

The FBI was offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the convicts’ capture. It was not immediately clear if a tip from the public led to Banks’ capture.

Conley and Banks used a makeshift rope of bedsheets to somehow slip out of a 15th floor window at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, and rappelled to the ground. The window in the cell had been broken, and the makeshift rope had been tied to its bars. Banks and Conley also managed to remove bars from the window of their cell, and break away part of the concrete around the narrow window to slip out.

Officials at the MCC did not notice the men were missing until about 7 a.m. on Tuesday.

Kenneth Conley escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, along with his cellmate, on Dec. 18, 2012. (Credit: FBI)

Kenneth Conley escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, along with his cellmate, on Dec. 18, 2012. (Credit: FBI)

The beds in their cell contained several pieces of clothing and sheets that were gathered under a blanket, in the shape of a body. Metal bars from the cell window were found in a mattress in the cell, and fake metal bars were also found in the cell.

Security video from a private building in the South Loop showed the duo getting into a cab at Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue at about 2:40 a.m. Tuesday. Authorities said Banks and Conley were not dressed in their orange jail jumpsuits when they got in the cab, but in lighter clothing.

The FBI has said they know Banks and Conley ended up in Tinley Park at Conley’s mother’s home on Tuesday, but it was not clear if they went all the way there by cab.

The inmates shared the same cell. Conley pleaded guilty in October to robbing about $4,000 from a bank in Homewood. Banks, the so-called “Second-Hand Bandit,” was convicted last week of four bank heists. Authorities said Banks stole at least $589,000, but only $56,000 was recovered, so it’s possible he had hundreds of thousands of dollars stashed away.

On Thursday, a union official told the Chicago Sun-Times that a staffing shortage at the contributed to a breach of security, and made the escape possible.

The breakout was caught on surveillance video at the jail, but the union official said two officers assigned to the control room where the surveillance cameras are monitored did not see the escape, because one of them was answering phone calls from other guards doing prisoner counts, and the other was on the 17th floor doing a count, due to staffing cuts.

Also because of staffing cuts, the union official said the jail no longer has an officer in a car to patrol the jail’s perimeter. The jail also no longer has officers patrolling the perimeter on foot 24 hours a day on three shifts; instead, only one officer patrols from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., but is focused on the front entrance, the vehicle entrance for bringing in prisoners, and the employee parking lot.

Responding to a request for a response to the union official’s comment, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman said “it would be premature to speculate regarding any of these matters as the entire incident is still under investigation.”

(The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report)

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