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Cell-Phone Partner: 12 Years in Prison

It's time for Dave Chatram Williams to hang it up.

After gaining his 15 minutes of fame for being the person on the other end of the cell-phone bank robber's line, he'll be spending the next 12 years behind bars.

THE TALKATIVE robber, herself — his girlfriend Candice Rose Martinez — will be sentenced this week in federal court for her part in their four, brazen bank robberies. But Friday, it was Williams' turn.

Before being sentenced for conspiracy to commit bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, he apologized for his deeds and asked the judge for forgiveness and another chance.

But U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee told Williams he was lucky to get as light a sentence as he was getting. Normally, he said, he gives people "30 or 40 years" for these type of crimes.

"So a great deal has been cut for you by your attorney and the prosecutor," said Lee. "But I still don't understand what would make one college student convince another to commit a bank robbery."

Williams, 19, formerly of the City of Fairfax, lived with Martinez in Chantilly's Shenandoah Crossing Apartments and they attended Northern Virginia Community College together. They also plotted and carried out the robberies together.

Williams used to work at a Wachovia bank, so that was their bank of choice, since he was somewhat familiar with its operations. Their string of stickups took place in Springfield and Vienna in Fairfax County, in Manassas in Prince William County and in Ashburn in Loudoun County. And during Ashburn robbery, Martinez displayed a gun.

The crimes were committed: Oct. 12, at 212 E. Maple Ave., Vienna; Oct. 21, at 8441 Sudley Road, Manassas; Oct. 22, at 7030 Old Keene Mill Road, Springfield; and Nov. 4, at 43780 Parkhurst Plaza, Ashburn. In each instance, 19-year-old Martinez entered the bank and demanded cash — all the while talking on her cell phone.

She wore no disguise, and soon — courtesy of bank surveillance cameras — her face was plastered in newspapers and on TV screens nationwide. She was dubbed the "Cell-Phone Bandit" and, before long, she was identified, as was Williams, her accomplice.

Agents from the FBI's Washington Field Office, Fairfax County police and Loudoun Sheriff's personnel jointly arrested Williams, the evening of Nov. 14, at his mother's apartment on Lee Highway in Fairfax. The FBI charged him with the Vienna bank robbery

Martinez was apprehended a few hours later in front of a home in Centreville's Centre Ridge community. Both Fairfax and Loudoun counties leveled charges against her but, because she and Williams committed serial robberies of federally insured institutions, the U.S. government soon took over their prosecution.

Both confessed to the robberies and told the FBI the specific parts each of them played in the heists. Williams admitted he'd given Martinez the .38-caliber gun she showed the teller during the stickup in Ashburn. He also acknowledged helping plot the crimes and driving the getaway car.

WILLIAMS LATER told the court that the two of them had composed a demand note using his personal computer and printer. In the note, tellers were warned that, if they didn't turn over the bank's money to Martinez, they or someone next to them would be shot.

So, faced with dire consequences, the tellers handed over the cash and, altogether, the duo made off with $48,620. They planned to flee the state but, first, they went shopping — spending all but about $4,770 on items such as an Acura Integra, a 42-inch plasma flat-screen TV, Louis Vuitton purses and a four-piece bedroom set.

In December, Williams and Martinez each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. And Friday, Feb. 24, Williams returned to U.S. District Court in Alexandria to receive his punishment.

At the outset, federal prosecutor Patricia Giles told Judge Lee that both parties had signed a consent order of forfeiture, giving up their interest in any of the goods purchased with the money from their ill-gotten gains.

Then, noting that sentencing guidelines call for five years incarceration for the conspiracy charge and a mandatory minimum of seven years for the brandishing offense, she called those lengths of time "reasonable."

Giles then told Lee that Williams had requested his sentences run concurrently, but she took exception. "The defendant asks us to ignore the statute that states these two sentences should run consecutively," she said. "We just can't do that. There were four bank robberies. Bank robberies are crimes of violence. He drove the getaway car, provided the gun to Ms. Martinez and endangered the lives of her and everyone else in the bank."

Saying it's important to "understand why this happened," defense attorney Michael Devine called Dr. Anita Voss, a forensic psychologist in private practice in Alexandria, to testify. She said she'd evaluated Williams for immigration court, Aug. 4, in her office, and again, Dec. 12, in jail.

His father was — and still is — in jail, serving 12 months for a 2005 embezzlement in Loudoun County. And for the past three years, authorities have been working toward deporting his mother to Guyana. So Voss was hired to determine what effect her deportation would have on her son.

"IT'S MY opinion that Mr. Williams is rather immature for his age, both socially and emotionally," she said. "[He] manages by relying on his mother for decisions and support. He doesn't have a good track record of [doing so] without his mother ... or girlfriends. He's never without a girlfriend."

Voss said Williams has "very limited ability to cope with stress," let alone his mother's possible deportation, and has difficulty solving problems. She also said he needed "supportive counseling."

Knowing of Williams' significant participation in the bank robberies, the judge asked Voss if he was "accountable for encouraging and helping" Martinez with them. But she couldn't answer his question, saying she had no knowledge of her own about the relationship between the pair.

Devine said a "confluence of three events" led his client "to go from being a caring family member, good friend and college student to a serial bank robber." At the time of the offenses, he said, "[Williams'] world was crumbling. His father was in jail and his mother's deportation proceedings were continuing."

"He felt the complete loss and abandonment of the very structure he'd built his life around," said Devine. Then Williams met Martinez. And, said Devine, she was equally culpable for their short-lived life of crime.

"Martinez, herself, said, 'I could have walked away; this was my decision, too,'" he said. "They made the decision together." He said Williams clung to Martinez and, there they were — "two people who couldn't survive in Northern Virginia. They had no money or income, they were college students and were very young."

In Williams' mind, said Devine, "He couldn't exist without Martinez. And [their joint crimes were] what was necessary to sustain the relationship and himself. Clearly, it wasn't well-thought-out. He said he didn't think anyone would notice [what they'd done] — or that it would get media and TV coverage nationwide."

Devine then told Lee he believed that the mandatory, seven-year sentence Williams would receive is "a very hefty sentence — more than enough to tell Dave Williams he's done wrong and there are consequences [for his actions]. I ask the court, is 12 years really necessary?"

WILLIAMS stood prior to sentencing to address the court. But first, the judge made him turn around and face his family members who'd come for the proceedings. Said Lee: "We want to know what you were thinking when you [were outside waiting while Martinez] entered the banks and made those bank tellers fear for their lives."

Apologizing both to his family and the bank tellers, Williams said, "I never meant to hurt anyone physically. I've never been so low before ... It's no excuse for what I've done. It was the worst mistake of my life. I pray to God for forgiveness every night, and I pray not to commit a sin ever again."

He said there's nothing he could do to take back what he's done. "I just want to make everything better," he said. "I'm not a bad person; I'm a goodhearted person. I know now nothing is worth [losing my freedom]. I'm so sorry; please give me a chance to do good and help people." Then, offering to do thousands of hours of community service, Williams added, "I'll do whatever it takes. Please, Your Honor, forgive me."

But things couldn't be fixed that simply. "Bank robbery is a very serious crime," said Lee. "People who work in banks handle other people's hard-earned money ... and they don't expect to be intimidated by people with notes and guns. And we're not talking about one bank robbery, or two bank robberies or three bank robberies, but four. And in the last one, you gave your girlfriend a gun — and that elevated the level of crime."

Lee also told Williams that it's "not fair" for him to blame his parents for his problems. "This was your decision," said the judge. Noting that he'd read a newspaper article about Williams and Martinez, he said, "It didn't seem like Romeo and Juliet to me, or Bonnie and Clyde — and they ended in a hail of bullets. You're lucky to be alive."

Lee said Williams' sentence will send a message that "young men and women who steal from banks go to jail. To protect the public welfare and the public safety, I'm going to sentence you to 60 months [five years] on the conspiracy charge and 84 months [seven years] on the firearm charge, to run consecutively."

He placed Williams on five years supervised probation upon his release from prison. And he ordered him to maintain gainful employment at that time, plus obtain and pay for mental-health treatment. Six months after his release, Williams is to begin paying $50/month toward paying the $43,850 restitution that he and Martinez together must make to the bank.

THE JUDGE also ordered him to pay a $200 special assessment and, in the future, prohibited him from "working in banks or jobs where you're handling money." Afterward, outside the courtroom, Devine said, "We always hope for something better, but I understand why the judge did what he did."

He said his client entered the courtroom Friday "with a realistic view of what would happen to him" and would be able to cope with the long prison term. Said Devine: "He will find strength he didn't know he had, and he'll have the support of his family — wherever he is and wherever they are."