A 60-year-old man who was in a "dark, dark spot" in his life when he robbed an Elmwood Avenue bank told a judge Wednesday that ending up in Erie County Court may have saved his life.
Harry Charnock, 60, received a sentence of one year in jail from Judge James Bargnesi. The judge wished Charnock well and offered hope he would continue to deal with the mental illness that Charnock says led to his crime.
In October, Charnock pleaded guilty to robbery in the third degree. At about 10:15 a.m. on Sept. 23, Charnock went from his apartment building to the Bank of America branch next door at 495 Elmwood Ave. and gave a teller an envelope demanding money. Although he didn't display a weapon, he allegedly threatened to shoot the guard and the teller if anyone made trouble.
Charnock was arrested a day later after being identified from images captured by the bank's security cameras.
At Wednesday's sentencing, defense attorney Daniel Grasso told the judge that his client "was really going through a terrible, terrible, terrible stretch" when he committed the robbery. After years of keeping his substance abuse and mental health problems under control, Grasso said, Charnock's therapist had retired, and Charnock began drinking and abusing drugs again. He lost his job and also attempted suicide, Grasso said.
"I believe there was a little bit of hope when he stepped out that morning that police would end it for him," the lawyer added.
He said that Charnock tried to use the money he stole to buy enough drugs to overdose, but instead, ironically and luckily, the stolen money was stolen from him.
Charnock also told Bargnesi that he had struggled with mental illness since he was a child, and had "stayed on top of it" for years, to the point where he even obtained work at the mental health facility where he received treatment.
"I came from Skid Row to working with doctors," Charnock said. "I'm actually glad I'm here, because I believe it saved my life."
Bargnesi agreed that Charnock looked much better than when he first stood before him two months ago.