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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, May 25, 2002

Bank robber sent to prison

Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — The air traffic controller who turned to a life of crime to pay his debts and finance his children's visits was sentenced yesterday to more than four years in federal prison.

Rick Lee Davis, 44, a former Hawai'i resident known to police as the Robust Robber for his stocky build, was sentenced to 51 months in prison after pleading guilty to six charges of unarmed bank robbery. He also was ordered to pay restitution to three banks of $36,696.

U.S. District Court Judge Lowell Jensen rejected a defense attempt to reduce the sentence because of diminished capacity. Davis' attorney, Randy Sue Pollock, argued Davis had brain damage from a car accident six years ago and also suffered from depression.

In 1996, Davis was seriously hurt when his car hit a cow in Hawai'i, where was living with his wife and two sons. Davis later divorced and filed for bankruptcy.

"He was on a spiraling course downhill with a series of events he could not deal with, added to the damage in his brain," Davis' lawyer said. "He didn't have the ability to control his behavior."

The judge said he wasn't convinced.

"I think he just chose to do that," Jensen said.

Davis' arrest on Aug. 3, 2001, shocked co-workers at San Francisco International Airport, where he earned $98,000 a year as an air traffic controller. He had been working there since 1998 and was president of the air traffic controllers' union local.

Davis apologized to the court, and said at the time of the robberies he had trouble thinking of how to solve his money and relationship problems and deal with separation from his two sons, who lived in Hawai'i with their mother.

"It's hard to get out of those situations because of the pain," he said.