Arkansas man receives 7th jail term, 10th conviction; son faces capital murder charge.
At age 14, Jack Banks led police on a high-speed chase while his teenage passenger fired a shotgun at pursuing officers.
At 15, Banks was one of six youths whose late-night attack on a 37-year-old father of two while stealing his gold-chain necklace drove the older man into a Little Rock street where he was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
On his 16th birthday, Banks accepted a 15-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to the resulting robbery and manslaughter charges.
"I just got with the wrong people," the teenage Banks said at his September 1991 sentencing hearing when asked to explain how he'd gotten into so much trouble over 14 months.
It was the first of six times Banks would be sent to prison. He's been either behind bars, on parole or probation ever since.
Thursday, a month before Banks turns 43, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker handed down his seventh prison sentence, marking at least his 10th felony conviction. This time, he will be going to federal prison, where there's no parole, for nearly 7½ years, as a result of a 2016 traffic stop that led to his Jan. 30 guilty plea to a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
"I know my past is what it is," Banks told the judge, "but it is my past. I haven't been perfect growing up ... [but] I've come a long ways in life."
"Now," he said, fighting back tears, "I have someone that's repeating my past, and it hurts. He took a turn because of me."
Over the weekend before his sentencing hearing, while Banks was sitting in jail for the 30th month, he learned that his 15-year-old son, Jack Banks III, had been charged with capital murder, attempted capital murder and aggravated robbery.
He is the youngest of four North Little Rock teenagers accused of shooting two men at the North Little Rock skate park on July 16. Armond Van Tonder, 22, of Cabot was killed in the 3:30 a.m. shooting while 18-year-old Jacob Bynum of Jacksonville was wounded.
The elder Banks' large shoulders shook as he told the judge, "I'm tired of living this way. ... I'm ready for a change."
He told her, "My life's been like an abandoned house sitting on the side of the road," still standing despite enduring years of abuse from criminal activity.
Sitting behind him in the courtroom gallery were several family members, including his mother, a nephew, nieces, a girlfriend and three young children, including a baby who slept peacefully in the women's arms.
"He's done some horrible things, but he's a good person," his attorney, Lisa Peters of the federal public defender's office, told Baker, asking for leniency.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Liza Jane Brown cited his extensive criminal history, telling the judge that "it only ends at age 42 because he's been locked up."
In the end, Baker told him, "Mr. Banks, I need to look at the past to inform consequences today." At the same time, she said, "I don't believe your past has defined you. I don't think it's ever too late to change."
Banks was 24 when he began his second prison stint in June 2000 on a three-year term for bribing a witness and cocaine possession in separate incidents.
His third stint occurred in September 2003, this time on an eight-year sentence for perjury, cocaine possession and theft by receiving, crimes committed over an 18-month span in North Little Rock and Sherwood.
The perjury conviction grew out of Banks' September 2001 claim to North Little Rock police that someone had tried to shoot at him. The resulting investigation led detectives to suspect 16-year-old Timothy Davis of North Little Rock, and police were able to arrest Davis after Banks identified him as the shooter and swore out a complaint against him for committing a terroristic act.
But when Davis went on trial in August 2002, Banks denied under oath that he had identified Davis or even knew him. Prosecutors had to immediately drop the charges.
Davis, however, would go on to kill a man, 25-year-old Andrew Jackson of North Little Rock, in June 2004, at the Woodbridge Townhouses apartments at 1600 John Barrow Road and then abduct a female acquaintance who witnessed the shooting. Davis, who was convicted of kidnapping and capital murder, is now serving a life sentence.
A November 2006 drunken driving arrest in Sherwood netted Banks his fourth prison term in March 2007 - six years - after police found a gun and marijuana in the vehicle - while his fifth term, a five-year sentence, came in June 2009 following arrests for breaking into a truck while drunkenly trying to steal the radio from the vehicle and driving a stolen car in Jacksonville.
His last prison term was a six-year sentence in March 2007 for second-degree battery for shooting his then-brother-in-law in a March 2012 ambush at the victim's home on Tracey Avenue.
Police found Dwight Cooper, 38, wounded in front of the home, and he told detectives that his wife had called him to come to the house because she had locked herself out. Cooper said he couldn't get into the home either because the alarm code had been changed. While he was talking to his wife, Cooper said, Banks, her brother, suddenly came from around the house with a pistol and clubbed him with the gun before shooting at him.
Cooper said he tried to use the woman to shield himself from Banks but he was shot and fell to the ground while Banks kept on shooting. Cooper said Demetria Louise Banks and Jack Banks then left together. Jack Banks surrendered that same day and denied any involvement in the shooting.
Court records do not show a motive for the shooting, which occurred four days after the couple's first wedding anniversary. They separated about three weeks later and subsequently divorced.
Court records show that Banks has never stood trial and that all of his convictions have been negotiated plea agreements, sometimes to reduced charges.
His first prison sentence came after a months' long battle in 1991 at the Arkansas Supreme Court between prosecutors and public defenders about whether Banks could be charged as an adult under recently passed laws dealing with juvenile offenders.
He and an older teen had both been charged with attempted capital murder, robbery and fleeing in June 1990 after the pair had stolen a man's gold chain in the parking lot, flashed guns at the victim and another man then sped away.
The other teen, Andrew Lee Harris Jr, fired at least 10 blasts from a .410 shotgun out of the passenger window of the yellow Monte Carlo driven by Banks during the resulting police pursuit that reached speeds of 100 mph.
The chase, which included at least two exchanges of gunfire between the police and the two teenagers, ended after about 10 minutes when Banks and the lead police car collided. Police later counted 97 birdshot pellets lodged in the patrol car's windshield.
Banks was arrested again about eight months later in the wake of the police investigation into the March 1991 attack on Varnia Don Williams outside a convenience store at 12th and Woodrow streets. It was about 4 a.m., and Williams, 37, had just left the store after unsuccessfully trying to buy something to eat with food stamps.
Banks was one of six youths who kicked and punched the older man to take his gold-chain necklace, with one of them breaking a beer bottle over his head and leaving Williams laying in the street where he was run over.
Banks was charged with first-degree murder and arrested with five of the other youths, four of whom were later convicted of lesser charges.
One of the five, Frederick Toney, was convicted of manslaughter by a jury that imposed a $10,000 fine on the then-17-year-old Little Rock man rather than send him to prison.
Prosecutors dropped the murder charge against another teen, Christopher Wayne Foster, then 16, replacing it with misdemeanor negligent homicide. He was subsequently convicted at trial and sentenced to the maximum penalty by jurors, a year in jail with a $1,000 fine.
Michael Dewayne Gardner, who was 20, received a 10-year sentence for manslaughter. Last October, Gardner, now 46 , was sentenced to 30 years in prison with no parole for stabbing his 74-year-old aunt to death in Little Rock, four armed robberies and a sexual assault.
Sammy Coleman Jr., the 21-year-old who hit Williams with the beer bottle, also received 10 years for manslaughter. The fifth, Patrick Wesley Howard, 16, was prosecuted in juvenile court while the driver who ran over Williams, Billy Nichols of Sherwood, who was 24, received 12 years for failure to stop for an injury-accident. Nichols was not part of the mob that attacked Williams
By the time Banks pleaded guilty in September 1991, the state Supreme Court had dismissed most of the charges against him stemming from the police chase. The high court ruled that the law barred prosecutors from charging a 14-year-old as an adult with attempted capital murder and fleeing.
His co-defendant Andrew Harris Jr., who was two years older than Banks, pleaded guilty to those charges and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.