Bank robber who fled high-rise cell captured

A rope believed used in the inmates’ escapes hangs from the US jail in downtown Chicago. One inmate is still at large.
M. Spencer Green/AP
A rope believed used in the inmates’ escapes hangs from the US jail in downtown Chicago. One inmate is still at large.

CHICAGO— A convicted bank robber captured days after a daring escape from a high-rise jail in downtown Chicago will likely return to the same federal lockup, though this time he probably will be held in a special isolation unit, his attorney said Friday.

Joseph ‘‘Jose’’ Banks, 37, made an initial appearance in court, shackles on his legs, arms, and wrists clanging as he shuffled in. He appeared tired but calm, saying ‘‘yes’’ when a judge asked if he understood he had been charged with escaping from a jail just two blocks from the courthouse.

US Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier also asked Banks, who had represented himself at his bank robbery trial, if he agreed to let an attorney his family hired represent him on the escape charge. Banks paused, shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘‘OK.’’

Joseph Banks, 37, was captured without incident.

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, attorney Beau Brindley said he expects Banks to be held in isolation. He called it ‘‘not a nice place,’’ but didn’t immediately say whether it was in an interior part of the building and was windowless.

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Another man involved in the escape early Tuesday, Kenneth Conley, remains at large.

The FBI said Banks was arrested late Thursday, days after he and Conley broke a large hole into the bottom of a 6-inch window of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, dropped a rope made of bed sheets out, and climbed down about 20 stories to the ground.

Escape carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine. Banks has already been convicted of four counts of bank robbery, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Among the observers in the crowded courtroom Friday were several agents with the FBI, which took the lead in the search for Banks..


Banks was arrested on Chicago’s north side, according to the FBI. Special Agent Joan Hyde said in an interview that no other arrests were made at the address where Banks was taken into custody. Whether anyone else will be charged, she said, will be decided by the US attorney’s office.

When Banks and Conley escaped, the FBI said both men should be considered ‘‘armed and dangerous.’’ Hyde said she did not know whether Banks was armed when arrested.

Security appeared tighter at Banks’ hearing than for most initial appearances. Several US marshals flanked Banks as he stood before the judge.

After the 10-minute hearing, Banks’s attorney accused reporters of falsely depicting his client as menacing. When Banks told a judge at his bank robbery trial that ended last week with his conviction that she would be ‘‘hearing from’’ him, Brindley said, he did not mean it as a threat but merely meant he would soon be filing post-trial motions.

‘‘This is a fairly mild-mannered person. . . . He is soft-spoken,’’ Brindley said.


Brindley said his only chance to speak with Banks since his capture was for several seconds during Friday’s hearing, and he declined to discuss his escape or capture.

The overnight escape went unnoticed for hours. Surveillance video from a nearby street showing the two hopping into a cab in downtown Chicago shortly before 3 a.m. Tuesday. They had changed from their orange jail-issued jumpsuits.

Authorities found evidence of a meticulously planned escape, including clothing and sheets shaped to resemble a body under blankets on beds, bars inside a mattress, and fake bars in the cells.