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Man who planned, drove getaway car in bank robberies sentenced to 22 years

April 25, 2019

A Madison man who robbed nine banks in the Madison area in just over six weeks, including eight with his teenage nephew, was sentenced Wednesday to 22 years in federal prison.

Jonathan L. Thompson, 31, planned and carried out a series of “brazen” bank robberies, taking advantage of his teenage nephew through “selfishness and manipulation” to carry out most of the robberies while Thompson stayed outside in a getaway car, U.S. District Judge William Conley said.

The sentence was about double the one Conley issued a week ago to Thompson’s nephew, Kiefah Marbra, 19, of Madison, and well above the nine years to which Conley sentenced Robert Minette, 32, of Shakopee, Minnesota, who took part in two robberies with Thompson.

Even though Thompson never personally entered a bank or brandished a gun at an employee, Conley said, he planned the robberies and supplied Marbra and Minette with guns and backpacks. Thompson was found guilty by a jury in January of nine counts of bank robbery and one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.

The robberies, which happened between Jan. 8 and Feb. 22, 2018, were at banks in Madison, Middleton and Fitchburg.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Stephan recommended a 25-year prison sentence while Thompson’s lawyer, Robert Ruth, asked for a sentence just above those received by his co-defendants.

Marbra and Minette both testified during Thompson’s trial, and in court Wednesday Conley said he had heard a jail recording of Thompson ordering others to post threats against the two on social media. Thompson said he didn’t mean any harm, just that he was upset over things that were being said in jail.

Conley said it was hard for him to accept that because in the recording he heard Thompson saying he was “going to stick it to them.”

Thompson said he accepts responsibility for his role in the robberies and said he was “in a bad state of mind” when he committed them. In a letter he wrote to Conley, Thompson said he felt sorry for himself after a difficult life and a series of tragedies that occurred in his family.

“I felt sorry for myself and I blamed others for my problems,” he wrote. “I was mentally abusive to my loved ones. I regularly abused drugs and alcohol. And, I started to steal.”

Thompson wrote that he adopted a “by any means necessary” attitude to support his drug habit and lifestyle, and even after he was arrested he refused to accept responsibility for the robberies.

“It was not until just before the trial that I accepted responsibility for my part in these robberies,” Thompson wrote. “At that point I told my lawyer that he may admit I was part of the robberies.”

Seeing the victims of the robberies in court, he wrote, “made me realize how much worse these robberies were.”

While he wrote that he didn’t force Minette or Marbra to do anything, he knew that Marbra looked up to him, and wrote that he owes Marbra an apology for involving him.

“I should have kept him out of this, but I didn’t,” Thompson wrote.

In court, Conley asked Thompson how he thought he could get away with the robberies, despite wearing a GPS-enabled tracking device while free on bail for an unrelated criminal case.

“At the time, I wasn’t thinking about it,” Thompson said.

Still, Conley said he saw in Thompson an intelligence that was going to waste.

“There’s a lot going on in there,” Conley said, “and it’s a damned shame that it’s led to this.”