RENO, Nev. — Homeless, cold and scared, Tommy Ray McAdoo said he held up a Nevada bank with a steak knife last November so he could return to the only place he has ever really known.
The 77-year-old lifelong criminal got his wish late Tuesday when a federal judge in Reno sentenced him to another 15 years in federal prison for bank robbery with a dangerous weapon.
McAdoo’s U.S. public defender pleaded for leniency, saying the former Seattle man was gravely ill with heart and kidney disease and likely to die in prison even if the judge granted her request for less than five years.
“It would give him a sliver of hope, if he ever makes it that long,” Lauren Gorman said. “As he stands here today, he could go at any minute.”
But U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones said he agreed with federal prosecutors who argued McAdoo was still a threat to public safety given that he robbed a bank with a dangerous weapon at the age of 77.
“He has shown a willingness to commit a violent crime in order to obtain a benefit, including government housing” and care, Jones said.
McAdoo, who has been convicted of at least five different rank robbery charges in a criminal history dating to 1964, scribbled a demand for money on the back of a sports book sheet before making off with $2,700 cash in a paper bag from a downtown Reno bank across the street from the U.S. courthouse where he was sentenced.
McAdoo, wearing a headset so he could hear the court proceedings, briefly addressed the judge at the end of Tuesday’s hearing.
“All I can say is I’m sorry,” he said, pausing before adding, “(Country singer) Patsy Cline had a song, ‘I’m So Sorry.’ And that’s what I am now.”
FBI agents caught up with him just hours after the robbery while he was eating lunch at an old casino a few blocks away.
“He was just freezing and scared, and prison is a world he’s familiar with,” Gorman explained Tuesday. “He instinctively did what he knew would land him back there — he robbed another bank. In some respects, it’s understandable that someone who has been so profoundly institutionalized his entire life would have responded that way.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Rachow acknowledged, “It’s tragic we are at this point.”
“But we are this point because of steps the defendant has taken,” she said. “He reported to parole and probation that he wants to return to prison. He cannot function in society.”
Rachow said McAdoo’s “absolutely extraordinary” criminal history — including assault with intent to commit murder and intent to commit rape — “starts at age 24 and was unaltered his entire life except when he was incarcerated.”
Gorman said he had stayed out of trouble since his most recent release from prison in 2008. Living in poverty on only his $880 monthly Social Security check, he moved from Seattle to Reno in 2012 and tried to supplement his income gambling, “but generally lost'” and ended up living on the streets and in homeless shelters. He was hospitalized with intense chest pains in 2014, was diagnosed with coronary artery disease and urged to undergo heart bypass surgery but refused, she said.
The FBI agents who arrested him found some bait money with recorded serial numbers near the casino and a cash-bundle wrapper in a bathroom. According to court records, they requested McAdoo’s identification and asked him what he did for a living.
He replied: “I used to rob banks.”
This version corrects the 77-year-old’s McAdoo’s age in an earlier version. Federal court documents filed last month said he was 78. A public defender said in court Tuesday he is 77.