A Columbia man who held up a bank to avoid his ex-wife's demands for child support was found guilty of robbery yesterday, despite his attorney's claims that he didn't mean any harm.
Peter Laurence Axelrod, 49, of the 5700 block of Stevens Forest Road in Columbia's Oakland Mills village was returned to Springfield Hospital Center yesterday, where friends said he is being treated for depression and is on suicide watch. He will be sentenced May 23.
Asked by Howard County Circuit Judge James B. Dudley if he had anything to say, Axelrod stood with his hands crossed behind his back and said, "I'd just like to apologize."
On Sept. 28, he entered the First National Bank at Oakland Mills Village Center, handed a teller a typed note with his signature, took $2,600 and walked outside into the hands of police.
He said afterward that he wanted to get caught and wanted to go to prison.
The bank robbery was unusual enough to attract tabloid television interest. Reporters from "Hard Copy" were on hand at the end of Axelrod's trial yesterday.
AxelrodIn court yesterday, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Kathi L. Hill said that Axelrod planned to rob the bank so he would not have to pay his ex-wife $696 in support every two weeks for their three children.
Defense attorney Samuel Truette argued that Axelrod's plan to be arrested showed he had no intent to do violence and that his actions therefore didn't constitute a robbery. They were just an act to escape life's woes and get into federal prison, Mr. Truette said.
Even though Axelrod testified he purposely peered into a security camera, left fingerprints, signed the note and told the teller he was unarmed, Judge Dudley said his actions still were a robbery.
"This is very weird," Judge Dudley said. "He spent two days to plan the perfect robbery. "Whether he intended to be arrested is irrelevant. His assurances [of safety] to the teller fell on deaf ears."
But friends of Axelrod's said he is a harmless, desperate man who was treated unfairly by the court system.
"Pete doesn't deserve to go to jail," said Keith Shaffer, a former co-worker at Kaydon Ring & Seal Inc. "He loves his kids. His wife just kept financially hurting him. He did something wrong, and he should be punished, but to send this guy to a state institution would be a disaster. It would be worse than the crime he committed."
Pub Date: 3/15/96