Man admits leaving casino to rob Charleston bank

CHRIS DORST | Gazette-Mail
Kerry Johnson, 52, of Charleston, pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery in Kanawha Circuit Court on Wednesday. He left a blackjack table at the Mardi Gras Casino in Nitro last Aug. 2, robbed a bank in the South Hills neighborhood of Charleston and then returned to the casino to gamble.

A Charleston man told a judge Wednesday that he’d taken quite a few drugs the day he left the Mardi Gras Casino in Nitro to rob a Charleston bank last summer, and then returned to the casino to continue gambling.

Kerry Johnson, 52, pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery on Wednesday. He faces between five and 18 years in prison when Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom sentences him March 2.

In their deal with Johnson, Kanawha County prosecutors dropped a felony robbery charge, which carried a possible 10- to 20-year prison sentence.

Johnson said Wednesday that “most of the day was a blur” on Aug. 2 of last year and, initially, he didn’t remember leaving the casino to rob the City National Bank on Bridge Road in the South Hills neighborhood of Charleston.

“I knew it was me,” Johnson said, however, after seeing himself on video from the bank.

Prosecutors told Bloom that around 10 a.m. on that day, Johnson got up from a blackjack table at the casino, put down a $25 chip to hold his spot and then drove to the bank.

Once inside, Johnson handed a teller a note, saying he had a bomb and a weapon. Johnson got away with about $5,000 in cash, assistant Kanawha prosecutor Fred Giggenbach said.

“He went back to the casino and lost more money,” Giggenbach said.

In the hours after the robbery, police received an anonymous tip that a man who matched the description of the suspect given by bank employees lived on Churchill Drive near South Hills. When police arrived at the house, they found a green Mazda Miata, the same kind of car they’d been told that the robber fled in.

Johnson was sleeping on a couch inside the house. Stuffed between couch cushions, police found a large sum of cash, Giggenbach said. About $500 of the money taken during the bank robbery was later found at the blackjack table where Johnson had been gambling, according to the prosecutor.

Also inside the house, police found a yellow legal pad, similar to that the note presented to a teller had been written on. Giggenbach said Wednesday that Johnson’s fingerprints were found on the letter given to a bank employee. A blue-and-gold West Virginia University hat, similar to the one the robber had been seen wearing, according to bank employees, was found inside Johnson’s house, as well as a white towel, which tellers said, the robber had wrapped around his neck.

Johnson appeared in court Wednesday in an orange jumpsuit. He’s been in the South Central Regional Jail since his arrest on Aug. 3, 2016, on a $50,000 cash-only bond.

Bloom refused a request from Johnson’s lawyer, John Sullivan, a Kanawha public defender, to allow Johnson to await sentencing on home confinement at a residence in Pocahontas County.

At the time of his arrest, Johnson said he made about $10,000 a month, but that he was broke because he has a gambling problem.

According to court documents, information Johnson provided about his employment history states that he had owned his own marketing company for the past 11 years.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1723 or follow @KateLWhite on Twitter.

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