BANK ROBBER, ONCE A HERO, GOING TO PRISON — (The Biloxi Sun Herald)

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The Biloxi Sun Herald,  (MS)

November 24, 1994

Author: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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A decorated police officer from Mississippi is headed to prison for a bank robbery in Alabama.   Donald Lee Jeffries Jr. was sentenced to four years and nine months in federal prison. Jeffries’ voice cracked Tuesday as he told U.S. District Judge Charles R. Butler, “I’m truly sorry.  I can’t believe I did this.”

Jeffries, 28, pleaded guilty in August to robbing a People’s Bank branch in Tillman’s Corner in February. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped a gun charge that could have carried five more years in prison.

Butler gave Jeffries the minimum sentence, rejecting a defense argument for an even lesser punishment.    “I do this with mixed emotions,” the judge said.  “This is a person who has made both a success of his life and a failure of his life.”   He said testimony about Jeffries’ mental condition persuaded him to give the lowest possible sentence, and he said he would recommend federal prison authorities provide mental health care for Jeffries.

Defense attorney Dennis Knizley argued that Jeffries suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and the effects of the antidepressant Prozac.

Jeffries, who was fired after his arrest, was named Mississippi police officer of the year in 1992. The honor came after he saved at least two lives by killing a gunman in a crowded Hattiesburg, Miss., nightclub. The gunman fired three times at Jeffries at pointblank range and missed.   Friends and family have said Jeffries then became troubled.

“You simply don’t go from being police officer of the year to being bank robber of the year unless something is wrong with you,” said Jeffries’ mother, Zonia Jeffries, who testified at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing.

Jeffries stole $8,312 in the Feb. 3 robbery.

With credit for good behavior, he could be out of prison in about three years.

Copyright (c) 1994 The Sun Herald
Record Number:  9411240150