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UNITED STATES v. AYERS

May 30, 1997

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
WILLIAM AYERS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAMS

 On February 27, 1995, Defendant William Ayers robbed a bank in Chicago. Minutes later, he was apprehended and arrested. Ayers later pleaded guilty to one count of bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 2113(a). He now moves for a downward departure in his sentence on the ground that he suffered extreme abuse as a child that affected his later behavior. The court has struggled to rule on Ayers' motion in a manner that is fair to him and consistent with the law. In two prior orders, the court declined to depart downward. After evaluating recent developments in the law, considering further argument from counsel, and hearing testimony from Ayers' wife and sister, the court has decided to depart downward. This memorandum opinion and order supersedes the court's two prior orders.

 Background

 Dr. David M. Randall has prepared a lengthy Sentencing Memorandum on William Ayers, based primarily on conversations with Ayers, his wife, and his sister. Dr. Randall reports that Ayers' early childhood was chaotic and confused. Ayers' parents fought continuously. His father often beat his mother in front of the children. The family moved many times, and Ayers attended five different grammar schools. In school Ayers was diagnosed with learning disabilities. (Randall Mem. at 3-5.) Asked about this period of his life, Ayers told Dr. Randall, "I had special reading classes in school. Went to several different schools, lots of moving around, don't know why." (Randall Mem. at 4.)

 When Ayers was about nine years old, his parents separated and his mother moved away to New Jersey. From that age until the age of sixteen, Ayers lived with his father for significant periods of time. Although his father had money, he spent it on his girlfriends instead of his children. In fact, his father was neglectful, cruel, and abusive. He would leave home for days at a time. He would return home and kick his children out of the house, forcing them to sleep in a park. He beat his children. He would refuse to buy food and refuse to give the children money for food. Around this time, Ayers started stealing food for himself and his siblings. On occasion the children could not go to school because their clothes were in tatters. (Randall Mem. at 5-8.) Speaking of his father, Ayers told Dr. Randall,

 
He was not a good father, he didn't do fatherly things. He hit me. His hands, on the face, he's always bust my nose, always have a nose bleed. For things like not taking out the trash, and not going to school.

 (Ayers at 6.) Ayers left home when he was sixteen years old. (Ayers at 10.)

 Dr. Randall reports on Ayers' life from the time Ayers left home until he robbed a bank in Chicago on February 27, 1995. Dr. Randall discusses Ayers' criminal history, drug use, and marriage in some detail. Although Ayers' drug use and deep-seated fear of losing his wife sometimes interfered with their relationship, Ayers' wife portrayed Ayers as a loving husband who was kind and generous to his wife's children by a prior marriage. (Randall Mem. at 11-12.) She told Dr. Randall,

 
Billy wouldn't hurt a fly. He's confused. He loves people. He gave his coat to one of his friends because he was cold. Billy said, "I don't care, I'll make it." He wouldn't hurt nobody. He's not that type of person.

 (Randall Mem. at 14.) According to Dr. Randall, Ayers' father died in 1994. The funeral was a traumatic time for Ayers, and it evoked many painful, conflicting emotions. (Randall Mem. at 13.)

 The week preceding the bank robbery on February 27, 1995 was stressful for Ayers; On February 21, 1995, Ayers was in a car accident, caused by his drinking too much and driving too fast in a snowstorm. The accident apparently damaged the car, which was not insured. Although Ayers refused to go to the hospital, he stated that he had a head injury and suffered from dizziness and headaches for about a week. In addition, Ayers' wife was hospitalized with a very serious case of pneumonia. When Ayers visited his wife in the hospital, he admitted to her that "he was using drugs again." (Randall Mem. at 13.) When Ayers' wife learned that Ayers had robbed a bank, she said she "couldn't believe it." She told Dr. Randall,

 
I was shocked, hurt, mad, it was confusing. . . . I never would figure he'd do something like that. But he was on drugs at that time, heavily, smoking cocaine. He had started doing things around the house he shouldn't have done, like selling possessions around the house. He definitely had a problem.

 (Randall Mem. at 14.)


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