Attempted robbery gets homeless man 20 years in prison

He said he decided to rob bank because he couldn't find place to sleep at night

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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A homeless man who attempted to rob a downtown Vancouver bank because he wanted a bed in jail was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.

Robert D. Hobert, 56, pleaded guilty June 20 to first-degree attempted robbery of Chase Bank on April 11 as part of a plea deal with the prosecution.

By pleading guilty, Hobert avoided a potential life sentence. He has an extensive criminal history, including an armed robbery in 1979 in Clark County and a robbery in 1989 in Kingman, Ariz.

The prosecution could have argued that the attempted robbery was Hobert's so-called "third strike" and that he is a "persistent offender." A persistent offender automatically receives a life sentence without the possibility of release, under state law, though Hobert's court-appointed attorney Jeff Sowder said he would have challenged that.

Hobert wrote in a signed declaration that he accepted the plea bargain because "I want a place to take a shower and eat that is guaranteed."

"I also want to avoid the possibility of life without parole because after this extensive prison term, I should qualify for Social Security benefits," he added.

Hobert said he decided to rob the bank because he couldn't find a place to sleep at night.

He was able to shower and eat at Share House, but due to overcrowding, there were no beds available to him.

"I slept outside of the Share House with others," Hobert wrote. "The police evicted us from that location, so I didn't have a place to live. … I felt threatened living on the streets with … younger street people."

In the attempted robbery, Hobert entered the bank at 1205 Broadway and presented a note demanding money to a teller. The note stated, "Give me the money. This is a hold-up," according to court documents. The teller stepped away from the counter out of view, and Hobert fled on foot outside the bank's north doors, without any cash, police said. He was apprehended 15 minutes later near West 13th and Esther streets and admitted to the crime.

"At no time during the crime did I feel threatened," teller Tanya Workman wrote in a victim-impact statement.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/col_courts;paris.achen@columbian.com.