The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 8, 2013

Bank robber pleads guilty

Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — From the moment his note demanding cash hit the counter at a North Kingsville bank, Richard Hakala Jr. had regrets.

“I knew it was a mistake as soon as I did it,” Hakala, 47, of Kingsville Township, said at his plea hearing Thursday in Common Pleas Court.

Hakala is charged with robbery, a second-degree felony, in connection with the Dec. 17 robbery at the First Merit Bank on Route 193. At the hearing, Hakala waived his right to a hearing before the county grand jury, a trial and also pleaded guilty to the charge.

Judge Alfred Mackey accepted the plea and ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Hakala faces between 2 and 8 years in prison and a maximum $15,000 fine, Mackey said.

Bond was set at $50,000 cash/surety on the case. Hakala’s attorney, Joseph Humpolick, asked for a personal recognizance bond to allow his client a chance to begin a new job and “try to catch up on bills.”

“He wants to get his affairs in order,” Humpolick said.

Harold Specht, chief assistant county prosecutor, protested, saying Hakala faces “a very serious charge.”

“A bank was robbed and people were threatened,” Specht said. “He has already displayed poor judgment.”

Hakala told Mackey his dire financial situation prompted the robbery.

“I lost my job the month before, I was being evicted, my truck broke down and my electricity was going to be shut off,” Hakala said, his eyes tearing and voice cracking. “There was going to be no Christmas for my family.”

Hakala said he walked along railroad tracks that linked his road to Route 193 and the bank and presented a note to a teller a few minutes before closing time. The note  said Hakala was carrying a gun and presented a threat, it was learned at an earlier court hearing.

“If I get caught, my partner will come to your house,” he wrote in the note, according to previous testimony.

The teller handed over cash and Hakala fled the bank, retracing his steps back home, police have said. En route, he encountered a neighbor who eventually helped police identify the robber, officials said. Less than three hours after the crime, Hakala was in custody, police said.

Hakala took $6,875 from the bank, Specht said. All but $400 was found hidden in Hakala’s Reed Road residence, Specht said.

The second-degree charge pertains to a robbery where harm is inflicted, attempted or threatened, Mackey said.

Hakala said he was instantly remorseful and cooperated fully with investigators.

“I knew it was wrong,” Hakala said he told officers. “I admitted everything from the beginning.”