CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A Florida man who helped rob a bank at Town Center Mall is headed to a program of educational and vocational rehabilitation instead of home.
Anthony Williams, 21, who had been staying at a homeless shelter, helped another resident rob the United Bank in the mall last June. They fled, dropping cash as they did, and were quickly captured.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster said she recognized that he had already spent 271 days in jail and could possibly have been freed in three months to go back to Florida. But she agreed with his request to stay in West Virginia and be confined to the Anthony Center for Youthful Offenders.
His attorney, John Carr, said Williams had come from an abusive home and been in foster care since the age of 5. He was removed from some of those homes, too, when abuse took place.
"Your childhood, and the challenges, the court could not overlook," said Webster. "What you did was ill-conceived and not well planned."
Williams and Billy Gene Reed, 40, pointed a gun at employees in the early morning hours before the mall was open. Williams said Reed was the instigator of the robbery scheme.
Prosecutors said the gun was actually a squirt gun.
"I apologize to the victims," Williams said to the judge. "And for my negative behavior."
Williams said he came to West Virginia in 2011 and met up with a friend in Boone County who thought he could get a coal-mining job. But it didn't happen.
"I couldn't get a job," Williams said. "Money got pretty low and things got kind of rough. Billy Reed suggested we rob the bank and asked if I'd help him. I should have said no."
Reed has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is expected to go on trial soon.
Webster deferred Williams' sentence until after he attempts the Anthony Center program.Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cher...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4832