HARRISONBURG, Va –- Gunshots were fired at police officers last August after police say James Whittlesey robbed a Winchester bank. Monday in court, he pleaded guilty to robbing five banks.
After he robbed banks in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware, he left the country for Canada.
Monday he was in federal court in Harrisonburg where a judge told him he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Whittlesey repeated "I'm guilty," more than six times in court. He even asked if he could be sentenced that same day. His attorney told a WHSV reporter that Whittlesey did not have a lot of choices to make. He said pleading guilty actually gives Whittlesey some benefits.
Whittlesey walked into federal court with his hands tied.
"There weren't any good choices that he had to make," said Heblich.
Whittlesey's attorney, Frederick Heblich said pleading guilty would at least get Whittlesey a better home.
"He can go into a federal facility which will be, believe it or not, a better experience than at least living in the local jail."
Whittlesey faces five charges for bank robberies. One of the bank robberies was in Winchester. The 53-year-old admitted to asking tellers for more than $10,000 and firing gun shots at four officers.
Lt. Mike Danielson from the Winchester Police Department was at the scene that day. He was grateful it was not worse.
"The biggest thing is myself and the other officers...are all safe and are here and Mr. Whittlesey is behind bars where he oughta be and he can't hurt anybody anymore," said Lt. Danielson.
Whittlesey admitted in court to three bank robberies in Pennsylvania and one in Delaware. He faces charges for trying to escape from FBI agents in Vermont after being deported from Canada.
This is something Heblich said he does not see too often.
"It's unusual to have so many charges in so many jurisdictions and not to have a plea agreement. He just pled straight up to what he was charged with," said Heblich.
At a press conference, U.S. District Attorney Tim Heaphy said Whittlesey qualifies for life in prison since this his third violent felony. The officer at the scene that day is surprised he did not fight.
"He had nothing to lose like we were talking earlier. You can fight it and get life and you can pleaded and get life," said Lt. Danielson.
Whittlesey's lawyer said Monday at court that his client will be sentenced for all of his charges in one hearing. That sentencing is scheduled in October.
Whittlesey is also charged with attempted capital murder of a police officer, which is a state charge. The state's attorney said they do not plan to prosecute him for that right now because they have already got him on a mandatory sentence for firing a gun at the federal level.
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