RENO, Nev. -- Public defenders are pleading for leniency for a 78-year-old lifelong criminal who admitted robbing a Reno bank with a steak knife so he could return to prison instead of spending his last years homeless, cold and sick.
Tommy Ray McAdoo faces 25 years in prison or more when he's scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Reno Tuesday. Court-appointed lawyers for the former Seattle man are asking for a sentence of less than five years.
"Mr. McAdoo's crime was committed by a gravely ill homeless man who, after staying out of the system for eight years, impulsively decided he needed to do something to go back to prison," federal public defenders Rene Valladares and Lauren Gorman wrote in court papers filed July 25.
"His health is declining rapidly and with it any risk to the public he could present," they said, adding that McAdoo "understands that almost any sentence in this case is a death sentence."
"A sentence of 51 months gives Mr. McAdoo nothing more than a sliver of hope he will die outside of prison gates. Such a sentence is just and appropriate in the unique circumstances of this case," they said.
FBI agents investigating the Nov. 9, 2016 robbery at a downtown bank found McAdoo hours later eating lunch at a nearby casino and asked him what he did for a living.
"I used to rob banks," he answered, according to the federal criminal complaint.
When a judge asked McAdoo for his plea at his Nov. 17 arraignment, McAdoo turned to his lawyer and said, "Guilty or not guilty? It's up to you."
His public defender entered a not guilty plea on his behalf that day, but he ended up pleading guilty in April to bank robbery with the use of a dangerous weapon.
Prosecutors say McAdoo demanded money on a note he scribbled on the back of a casino sports betting sheet before making off with $2,731 in a paper grocery sack from the bank across the street from the federal courthouse where he's scheduled to be sentenced.
McAdoo has been convicted of at least five different bank robbery charges in a criminal history dating to 1964. Most recently, he pleaded guilty to a Seattle holdup in 1990.
Upon his most recent release from prison in 2008, McAdoo lived in poverty in Seattle with only his $880 monthly Social Security check. In 2012, he moved to Reno and tried to supplement his income through gambling "but generally lost'" and ended up living on the streets and in homeless shelters, his lawyers said.
He was hospitalized with intense chest pains in 2014, was diagnosed with coronary artery disease and urged to undergo heart bypass surgery but refused. His doctor advised in the discharge report in October 2014:
"I have told him openly that this means that he will probably die within the near future and he tells me that he is prepared to die."
For the next two years, he stayed out of trouble, but his health continued to deteriorate, his lawyers said. "In large part, Mr. McAdoo simply wanted to get out of the cold and return to prison."