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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2007

Toledo gunman receives 17 years for credit-union holdups

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It s been nearly six years since men armed with guns burst into her home, duct- taped her family, and led Kathy Scholl at gunpoint to the credit union where she was a manager.

It s been nearly six years since she lived through several terrifying hours of not knowing whether her family had been harmed.

Mrs. Scholl still breaks down with emotion at the memory.

Yesterday, as one of the men convicted of the armed robberies of several area credit unions appeared in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for sentencing, Mrs. Scholl relived the traumatic experience all over again.

John Jackson, 33, was sentenced to a total of 17 years in prison for his role in the series of robberies that prosecutors said lasted four years and netted more than $900,000.

He pleaded no contest to two counts of aggravated robbery one with a firearm specification and was found guilty June 18 by Judge Linda Jennings.

It s been years, but it s still hard, a tearful Mrs. Scholl said after the sentencing.

Physically, we re all OK, but emotionally, we re not, she said.

Authorities said Johnson was the ringleader of the operation where robbers entered financial institutions, usually just after the facilities opened, with their faces covered to conceal their identities.

The crimes were consistent: Gunmen entered and demanded money from managers who had access to large sums of cash in vaults and avoided tellers who kept less cash at their work stations.

In Mrs. Scholl s case, the pattern varied.

It was about 2 a.m. Dec. 17, 2001, when the Scholl family was awakened by someone kicking in a door yelling police, according to a report filed with Toledo police.

The intruders tied up Larry Scholl and the couple s then 21-year-old daughter, who is legally blind, and took Mrs. Scholl to the Jeep Country Federal Credit Union, where they forced her to open the vaults.

Jane Peters, a teller at the credit union, was robbed in a previous incident when armed men grabbed her on her way into work. She said yesterday that the emotional wounds take time to heal.

She said that when the staff at the credit union learned what happened to Mrs. Scholl, they all felt as if it happened to them.

I ve moved through the process of dealing with it. I m satisfied with [the sentence] because I didn t know if they ever would be caught, she said.

Jackson was one of five Toledo men convicted of participating in the robberies.

Judge Jennings sentenced David Booth and James Wyley on Monday.

Booth, 38, who pleaded no contest to two counts of aggravated robbery, including one with a gun specification, was sentenced to a total of 17 years in prison.

Wyley, 37, who pleaded no contest to one count of aggravated robbery, will serve four years in prison.

Last week, Milo Terry, 33, was sentenced to four years for his involvement. He pleaded no contest July 9 to one count of aggravated robbery.

Also involved was William Wren, 30, who entered an Alford plea to one count of aggravated robbery with a gun specification and has yet to be sentenced.

In an Alford plea, the defendant maintains his innocence or does not admit he committed a crime, but still pleads guilty because he decides it s in his best interest. He will be sentenced today.

Yesterday, Jackson s family members crowded the courtroom to support him.

Many sent letters to Judge Jennings sharing aspects of his past, including his help of the elderly.

Family members declined to speak after the sentence.

Attorney Sheldon Wittenberg asked that the judge consider Jackson s lack of a felony record and the fact that no one was physically hurt when she crafted her sentence.

Jackson apologized for his behavior.

I know I made a lot of bad decisions, he said. I d like to apologize.

Judge Jennings yesterday acknowledged the amount of support Jackson had, saying that he was breaking a lot of hearts today.

I m not considering whether you were a ringleader or not. You were an active participant, she said, adding that the men watched the credit union employees, learned their schedules, and went into the financial institutions with guns.

No one was physically hurt, but the emotional trauma that was caused these people can t be measured, the judge said.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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