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York County bank robbers got 'shock of their lives' at sentencing
Two York County bank robbers whose trial antics led them to be convicted in absentia last month didn't perform much better at their sentencing hearings Tuesday.
Dennis Chemil Harris and Stanley Alexander Riddic, both of Maryland, received years in prison, and at least one of them — Riddic — appeared to be astonished.
"They just got the shock of their lives," senior deputy prosecutor Duane Ramseur said after Tuesday's sentencing hearing. "I think they both assumed they would get 'probation before judgment.'"
In Maryland, "PBJ" sentences allow defendants to remain free while paying off restitution, fines and court fees. It means being placed on probation without a judgment being entered and is not considered a conviction.
Instead, Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook sentenced Harris and Riddic to seven to 14 years in state prison for robbing the Northwest Savings Bank, at 2220 S. Queen St. in York Township, at gunpoint on Sept. 15, 2015.
Second robbery: She also sentenced Harris, 52, to 7½ to 15 years in prison for robbing the Wells Fargo Bank at 20 S. Main St in Stewartstown on Aug. 20, 2015, also at gunpoint.
Cook ordered the sentences run consecutively, making Harris' total sentence 14½ to 29 years.
The felons took different approaches Tuesday, with Harris slumped down in his chair and showing apparent disinterest throughout much of his hearing.
Riddic, 32, went another route, telling the judge over and over, in various ways, that he was taking full responsibility for his actions — but also that he didn't rob Northwest Savings Bank.
He claimed he wasn't responsible because he wasn't in the bank that day and also because at the time of the robbery he was under the influence "of a drug called Xanax."
"I wasn't consciously even there, your honor," Riddic claimed.
'Kids' card: No family members attended either man's hearing Tuesday, but that didn't stop Riddic from trying to elicit leniency from Judge Cook by playing the "kids" card.
"As you see, I don't have a lot of support," he said, gesturing behind him to the nearly empty courtroom. "But I do have three kids, one on the way. ... I can't even bear one day away from my kids."
As Riddic tried to distance himself from the robbery, he used more and more details about the robbery to try to prove his point. Ramseur later pointed out that for someone with no involvement, Riddic certainly knew all about it.
In court, Ramseur argued for long prison sentences for both men, reminding the judge that the bank tellers were traumatized. One woman quit after the holdup, and another had to transfer to a different bank branch, he said.
'Guns a-blazing': The prosecutor said they barged into the bank "guns a-blazing," threatened to kill the tellers and called them derogatory names.
Ramseur also reminded Cook that the robbers were captured by police less than 2 minutes after the holdup, at which point Riddic asked them, "How did you catch us so fast?"
"There was no guns blazing," Riddic responded. "It was a toy gun. And it was broken." Actually, it was a BB gun, Ramseur later told The York Dispatch.
Harris, in contrast, didn't try to tug on the judge's heartstrings.
'Decent human beings': When given the chance to speak, Harris thought for a second, then brought up the bank tellers Ramseur said were traumatized during the holdup.
"I'd like to apologize to them," Harris said. "They seemed like ... decent human beings. All the rest of this stuff? I'll save (that) for a later date."
Harris and Riddic remain accused of robbing the Santander Bank at 880 W. Broadway in Red Lion on Sept. 4, 2015, and are facing trial on those charges, perhaps as early as next month.
The background: Since being charged in 2015, Harris and Riddic fired court-appointed attorneys and were granted new ones, and they requested a number of trial continuances.
Defense attorney Kevin Hoffman, who at the last minute was ordered by Cook to represent Riddic, described the May trial as "a series of unfortunate events."
Harris collapsed in the courtroom twice during the first day of trial and was hospitalized, and on subsequent days he refused to come out of his York County Prison cell so he could attend trial, Hoffman has said.
Car crash? Riddic also was a no-show for the trial after apparently being in a car crash.
"The court received a fax from Bayview (Medical Center) that Mr. Riddic appeared there on Tuesday (May 16) and ... they asked that he be excused from work until the 19th," Hoffman said. "There was no commentary (in the note) regarding his ability to appear for trial."
But Cook ordered the trial to continue without the men, and jurors on May 17 took an hour to convict Harris and Riddic, in absentia, of bank robbery, conspiracy and related offenses.
Despite his bail being revoked after the conviction, Riddic did not turn himself in. He was captured June 11 in Maryland, the attorney said.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.