Bank robber seeks to cut term short Immediate parole requested rather than in two years; 'He never hurt anybody'; Ex-corporate pilot was noted for being polite during crimes


Richard Stone, a one-time corporate pilot, lost his $80,000-a-year job, developed a drug habit and took to robbing banks in the 1980s.

But even then, he was polite.

Stone would wait his turn in line at the banks and open his jacket to show the toy gun he kept in an inside pocket, and he always said "please" and "thank you" as he took cash from tellers.

"He never hurt anybody," said his 74-year-old father, Thomas Stone of Dundalk.

Richard Stone asked an Anne Arundel County circuit judge yesterday to modify the 20-year sentence he received in 1989 so that he would be eligible for parole immediately rather than in the two years prosecutors say he must wait.

"This is a very unusual case, your honor," Assistant State's Attorney Fred Paone told Judge Martin A. Wolff.

Timothy Murnane, Stone's lawyer, agreed. He compared Stone's case to the movie "Falling Down," in which a seemingly ordinary man goes on a criminal rampage after a series of minor setbacks.

Stone, 45, of Baltimore was a corporate pilot and flew planes for the Air National Guard. He was married, had two children and earned $80,000 a year before he lost his job and separated from his wife in the mid-1980s, Murnane said.

He found a girlfriend who liked cocaine, and to finance their habit, he began robbing banks, Stone's family said.

He robbed 32 banks in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia from 1986 to 1988, Paone said.

Murnane said that Stone, who had attended Towson State University, turned his life around in prison, writing poetry, teaching writing to other inmates and earning praise from prison officials for his craftsmanship as a metal worker.

"Aside from this crime spree, he's been an incredibly productive person," Murnane said.

Murnane said Judge Raymond G. Thieme meant to limit the 20-year sentence he imposed in 1989 so that Stone would be released when he completed the eight-year federal prison term he began serving the same year for armed robbery.

If Stone were given credit for time served beginning with his arrest March 23, 1988, he would be eligible for parole immediately, Murnane said.

"It was the intent of the court at the time that when Mr. Stone finished his federal time, he would be finished completely," Murnane told Wolff.

Paone said that Thieme "gave a 20-year sentence knowing that this defendant had done a ton of bank robberies."

Wolff deferred ruling on Stone's request. He directed Paone and Murnane to ask Thieme, who has since been elevated to the Court of Special Appeals, whether he recalled his intent when he sentenced Stone.

Stone was released from federal prison to a halfway house in Baltimore in early 1996 in error and got a job as a salesman at a Baltimore motorcycle shop, Murnane said.

He was arrested in May by sheriff's deputies to serve the balance of his 20-year state sentence, Murnane said.

Stone's family said yesterday that it makes no sense to keep him locked up.

Stone earned $9,000 selling motorcycles in the four months he was free and was able to make court-ordered support payments for his two teen-age daughters and to pay back some of the $200,0000 in restitution from the robberies.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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