Iowa City man receives 7 year sentence for making fake bomb threat to distract police while he robbed bank

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IOWA CITY — A US Bank branch manager said in a victim’s impact statement Friday that she has had difficulty trusting customers because of the robbery Clifton Brinkmeyer, who was a customer, committed last year.

Jessica Steines told a judge she remembered the day of the robbery “vividly” because she had just started as the branch manager. She said Brinkmeyer came in, waving a gun at tellers, and then made her open a small vault behind the tellers area before he told them to kneel on the floor with their faces to the wall and their backs to him.

“I know we are trained to handle a situation like this but you never think it will happen,” Steines, who seemed upset as she told the judge.

6th Judicial District Judge Paul Miller sentenced Brinkmeyer, 31, to seven years in prison Friday in Johnson County District Court. Brinkmeyer, originally charged with second-degree robbery, pleaded guilty in July to third-degree robbery, an aggravated misdemeanor, and threat of terrorism, a felony.

Brinkmeyer admitted during the plea hearing that he committed the robbery at US Bank on Williams Street Jan. 19, 2016. He also admitted to making the 911 call and played a recorded message of “There is an explosive device in West High, you have 30 minutes,” as a way to distract police while he robbed the bank.

This call was made at 9:40 a.m. while school was in session, and more than 2,000 students had to be evacuated on buses while police searched the building, according to police. No explosive device was found in the building.

Brinkmeyer also admitted that during the robbery, he committed assault by threatening tellers, intending to cause harm or place someone in fear.

Gregg Shoultz, West High principal, in his victim’s impact statement said the students were terrified as they were all called in the gym that day and saw the bomb dogs.

“You could see it in the eyes of the students — they were terrified,” Shoultz said.

After that incident, he received 100 emails from parents, worried about the atmosphere of the school and whether it would be safe again. “It takes a while for trust to come back.”

Miller ran the two year and five year sentences consecutively for seven years because this was a crime of violence and he placed “fear and terror” in the employees at the bank and the 2,000 West High students and their parents with the bomb threat.

He also noted that he believed Brinkmeyer is remorseful and he commended him for seeking treatment for his gambling addiction and other issues, but the nature of this offense is the overwhelming factor.

Miller acknowledged that the gun Brinkmeyer used was a toy but pointed out none of the victims knew that at the time.

Miller suspended Brinkmeyer’s fines so he could pay victim restitution. Brinkmeyer was ordered to pay $2,269 in restitution to Durham School bus for overtime wages and taxes and $2,855 to West High nutrition services for school lunches.

Brinkmeyer said during the sentencing the he “failed the city, my friends, family and our democratic system. I’m deeply ashamed.” The small courtroom was packed with his family and friends who were there to support him Friday.

He also said he wanted to do better, rebuild trust and “right the wrongs that I committed.”

Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness asked for consecutive sentences, saying these were two separate crimes, which impacted thousands. This bomb threat was a “real fear” and it made them believe they might die.

Lyness said it was clear from Brinkmeyer’s statement regarding his crime in the pretrial services report that he wasn’t remorseful. His narcissistic traits, mentioned in his psychological evaluation, were obvious in that statement. He never expressed remorse to the students and bank employees. He talked about knowing the consequences and thinking he could possibly get away with it.

Al Willett, Brinkmeyer’s lawyer, asked the court for concurrent sentences for a total of five years in prison. He pointed out Brinkmeyer was in treatment for his gambling addiction and he has been diagnosed with anti-social disorder and other psychological issues.

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