Bank robber’s lawyer asks court for lenience

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Berryville man who pleaded guilty to robbing a Eureka Springs bank last year suffered abuse and neglect as a child, his attorney says in a court document filed Monday, and deserves leniency when he is sentenced later this month.

Hunter Cody Chafin, 20, pleaded guilty in March to one count of bank robbery as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 26 in U.S. District Court in Fort Smith.

Chafin was arrested in Benton County on Oct. 14, 2016, hours after he allegedly robbed a First National Bank of North Arkansas branch on Greenwood Hollow Road, off Highway 23 South in Eureka Springs.

In a memorandum filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, assistant federal public defender James B. Pierce describes Chafin’s “tragic childhood.”

“His mother used methamphetamines while she was pregnant with Mr. Chafin and did not seek prenatal care,” Pierce writes. “She has been in and out of jail his entire life and is currently incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Corrections. His father, who was physically abusive, was a paranoid schizophrenic. Mr. Chafin recalls that his father would talk to himself, often answering his own questions.”

Pierce writes that Chafin suffers from attention deficit disorder, mood disorder and disruptive behavior disorder and has a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

“Mr. Chafin began drinking alcohol at age 15, and using marijuana at age 16,” Pierce writes. “However, his cycle of drug abuse began before he even had a choice — while he was in the womb.”

Pierce notes that on the day of the bank robbery, Chafin first checked his account and gave his true name to a teller. He then walked outside to call a taxi before going back inside in order to rob the bank.

“These acts reveal the instant offense was a result of his impaired cognitive function caused by early drug abuse while he was a fetus,” Pierce writes.

Chafin’s written plea agreement didn’t include a sentencing recommendation, but Pierce’s memorandum says federal sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of 30 to 37 months. Pierce writes that a lesser sentence would be appropriate in Chafin’s case.

“Mr. Chafin’s sentence should promote respect for the law, but it should also provide a sentence that is sufficient but not greater than necessary,” Pierce says. “A sentence below the Guidelines range would have a great impact on Mr. Chafin. He is still a very young, naive man and to give him a Guideline sentence would not be just punishment — it is overly punitive. It would not deter others, nor would it rehabilitate Mr. Chafin. When he is released from prison, he will be under supervision and if he commits another crime, he will return to prison. He prays the Court will recognize that his crime was fueled by his troubled childhood, which began with secondary methamphetamine exposure prior to his birth.”

Pierce requests that Chafin be placed in a “Shock Incarceration Program.” This program, for inmates who have been sentenced in the range of 12 to 30 months, includes a highly regimented schedule similar to military basic training, job training and educational programs and drug and alcohol counseling.

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