STAMFORD, Conn. – A convicted bank robber is citing stress from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in a bid for less prison time, the second time the argument has been used by a bank robber in the last year.
Jason Battista (search), 28, is expected to be sentenced next month for robbing 15 banks in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. He faces nearly seven years in jail.
The former college baseball player, who wore white medical tape on his face during the robberies, was "impacted deeply" by the terror attacks, said his attorney, Stephen Seeger. He'll base his argument on a psychological evaluation of his client.
"He was unable to function properly because of what he saw," Seeger said. "The drug use seemed to spiral out of control after 9/11. He wasn't the same individual."
Last year, another convicted bank robber, Pamela Kaichen (search), won a reduced sentence after arguing she had a mental condition that developed from volunteering at ground zero in New York following the attacks.
Kaichen, who was dubbed the "Blond Bandit" because she wore a long blond wig during her two-day robbery spree, could have received more than seven years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines but was given four years instead.
"It's clear this defendant was acting under significant mental disabilities triggered by her horrendous experience at ground zero," U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns said at the time.
Both Kaichen and Battista's claims have worried federal prosecutors.
"Certainly people were traumatized by Sept. 11," said Kevin O'Connor, U.S. Attorney of Connecticut. "We need, however, to be very wary of allowing that to become a routine basis for justifying criminal conduct."
Federal prosecutors in New York and New Jersey said, however, they were not aware of anyone else using the attacks as a defense.
"I think to the average person, perhaps even to the legal community, it is at least amusing but also probably offensive," said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey.
Defendants have long cited traumatic events, often in their childhood, in bids for leniency, experts said. But making the connection to crime is a tough argument.
"Criminal activity is not a symptom of post traumatic stress," said Terri Weaver, associate professor of clinical psychology at St. Louis University.