Joseph `Jose` Banks caught, escaped cellmate still at large - FOX 32 News Chicago

`Second-Hand Bandit` appeared in court, escaped cellmate still at large

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Kenneth Conley and Joseph "Jose" Banks. Kenneth Conley and Joseph "Jose" Banks.
CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

A federal judge told Joseph "Jose" Banks on Friday morning during a brief U.S. Court hearing in Chicago that he is charged with escape. Banks responded that he understood.

Escape carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine.

Banks already has been convicted in federal court of four counts of bank robbery, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Joseph "Jose" Banks, one of two convicted bank robbers who escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center this week, was caught late Thursday night, a law enforcement confirmed early Friday. His cellmate, Kenneth Conley, was still at large early Friday.

Law enforcement officials continue to search for Conley.

PHOTOS: Federal arrest warrants issued for escaped inmates

The FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force and Chicago Police officers captured Banks about 11:30 p.m. in the 2300 block of North Bosworth, according to a statement from the FBI. Banks was not armed, a source said.

Banks appeared in court at 11:30 a.m. Friday , at the Dirksen Federal Building. He shuffled into court, shackled at his arms and legs and surrounded by marshals. The hearing only lasted 10 minutes.

Banks' defense attorney, Beau Brindley, said his client has been falsely portrayed as menacing and violent. 

He described Banks as "soft-spoken" and "mild-mannered." Brindley said reports that Banks threatened a federal judge as his bank robbery trial ended last week with his conviction were inaccurate and "sensationalized."

Brindley said when Banks told the judge she'd be "hearing from" him, Banks merely meant he'd soon be filing post-trial motions.

Earlier Thursday, a union official said a staffing shortage in the federal jail in downtown Chicago contributed to a series of security snafus that made this week's daring escape possible.

Banks and Conley crawled out of a hole in the wall of their 17th-floor cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center and slid down a rope made of bed sheets early Tuesday, authorities say.

The breakout was caught on surveillance video, but a guard assigned to monitor the cameras didn't see it because he was counting prisoners on another floor, the official said.

SEE: FBI says escaped inmates took cab near Chicago jail

FBI agents later recovered a private surveillance video of Banks and Conley jumping into a cab near the jail at about 2:40 a.m. Tuesday. But jail officers didn't notice they had escaped until 7 a.m. that morning.

The escapees stopped briefly at Conley mother's house in Tinley Park before they vanished, authorities said.

An official with the Council of Prison Locals 33, which represents the guards in the jail, spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times about the escape on the condition that his name not be used.

The union official said two officers were assigned to a control room where the closed-circuit TV monitors for the jail's security cameras are located.

But one of them was preoccupied answering phone calls from other officers providing the results of their prisoner counts. Because of a staffing shortage, the other officer was on the 17th floor doing a count — instead of monitoring the cameras, the official said.

"The timing was just perfect," official said. "Does it make sense? Absolutely not. It's a breach of security."

Several years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons cut back on the staffing of correctional facilities across the country, including the MCC, the union official said.

Because of the cuts, the MCC no longer assigns an officer to a car to patrol the jail's perimeter — which includes Clark, Federal, Van Buren and Congress, the official said. The mobile officer was supposed to look for signs of escape on the building's exterior.

The jail also used to have an officer walking a foot patrol outside the jail 24 hours a day on three shifts. Now only one officer is assigned to a foot patrol from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the union official said.

But that officer is primarily responsible for watching for people at the front entrance, at the vehicle entrance for transporting prisoners to the jail and in the employee parking lot, the union official said.

"Their primary responsibility is not looking at the outside of the building," he said.

The official said the staffing shortage limits the number of "shakedowns" of prisoners' cells, too. The searches are important in finding contraband that inmates hide in their cells.

The official said he knows of at least two other ropes made of bed sheets that have been recovered in the MCC.

As for whether he thinks anyone working for the jail helped Banks and Conley escape, the official said he was told that the FBI's investigation found no initial evidence of an "inside job."

"Let the investigation fall where it may," said the union official. "The bottom line is to basically make sure this doesn't happen again. The objective of the union and management should be safety. We need more staff to be safe."

Responding to a request for comment on the union official's view, Ed Ross, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons wrote in an email: "At this time it would be premature to speculate regarding any of these matters as the entire incident is still under investigation."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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