An Anchorage man was sentenced to 9 years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to robbing a local bank and threatening a bank teller with a gun.


James Surrells, 44, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline to serve 108 months in prison for robbing the First National Bank of Alaska on Northern Lights Boulevard on Aug. 13, 2014. He pleaded guilty to the crime in September, according to court documents.


As part of his plea agreement, Surrells admitted to using a gun during the robbery. According to a statement from the Alaska District Attorney’s office, “Surrells showed [the teller] the butt of his handgun, which caused her to fear that he would kill or physically harm her if she did not comply with his demands,” resulting in his escaping the bank with $1,210. Judge Beistline ordered Surrells to pay that amount to FNBA in restitution.



“Judge Beistline cited the victim’s plight in announcing the sentence, noting that Surrells’ actions put his own immediate desires above those of the victim, who was simply doing her job,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Courter in a prepared statement. “The court also cited the defendant’s extensive criminal history, saying that such a past clearly demonstrates that Surrells disrespects the law whenever he is given a chance. Given those considerations, Judge Beistline felt it necessary to craft a sentence that protects the community and deters others from committing similar crimes in the future.”


Surrells had already begun serving another prison term for a conviction of vehicle theft when he was sentenced for the robbery. He was sentenced to serve 273 days in a state prison facility Jan. 29 after pleading guilty to first-degree vehicle theft. That arrest allowed investigators to confirm him as a suspect in the robbery case and file charges against him while in custody.


According to Courter, the U.S. Marshals and Department of Corrections will work together to determine which sentence will be served first, as a federal sentence must be served in a federal penitentiary. Alaska does not currently have a federal penitentiary.



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