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Omaha man earns third strike after robbing Sioux City bank

gavel-justiceSIOUX CITY – An Omaha man was sentenced to life imprisonment when, in a case of first impression, his conviction for unpremeditated murder in an Army court-martial was determined to qualify as a triggering offense for application of 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c)—the federal three strikes law.

Richard Allen Shaffer, age 54, from Omaha, Nebraska, received the prison term on September 5, 2014, after a February 10, 2014, guilty plea to one count of bank robbery.

Information presented by the United States at a change of plea and sentencing hearing revealed on October 12, 2012. Shaffer walked into a bank in Sioux City, Iowa, approached a teller, and handed her a note demanding money.The note read: “Be Quiet (GUN) Gimmie the money in the drawer and the replenishment drawer 100, 50, 20 10, 5, Now Be Quiet!”

The teller gave Shaffer $3,710 and Shaffer fled with the money. Police arrested Shaffer the next day on an outstanding warrant. Police then searched Shaffer’s girlfriend’s home, with her consent, where they found the clothes Shaffer had worn during the robbery and the note he handed to the teller.

Shaffer committed this robbery after he was released from federal prison for six 2004 bank robbery convictions. Because Shaffer was sentenced for all six convictions at the same time in 2004, those six convictions counted as only one predicate felony under the three strikes law. Shaffer’s criminal history also included a 1979 conviction in a United States Army General court-martial for unpremeditated murder, for which he was sentenced to 25 years confinement at hard labor and served 18 years.

Shaffer was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett who found, in a case of first impression that the Army court-martial conviction was a qualifying serious violent felony, that along with the 2004 bank robberies, and the present bank robbery conviction, triggered application of three strikes law as requested by the United States. Shaffer was, therefore, sentenced to life imprisonment. A special assessment of $100 was imposed, and he was ordered to make $4,710 in restitution to Heritage Bank, Sioux City, Iowa. He must also serve a 5-year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

Shaffer is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

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