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Everett man gets life in prison for robbery

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By Diana Hefley
Herald Writer
EVERETT -- An Everett man will spend the rest of his life locked behind bars for robbing a check-cashing business while armed with strawberry yogurt.
James Monroe Thorne, 66, was convicted in February of robbery for a 2006 holdup at Dollarwise on Rucker Avenue in Everett. Thorne made off with about $2,000 after he told employees the brown bag under his arm contained a bomb.
The bomb turned out to be bogus. Inside the bag was a four-pack of pre-stirred Dannon Light strawberry yogurt.
Thorne's robbery conviction was his third strike under the state's persistent-offender law.
Thorne's attorney Gabriel Rothstein argued Tuesday that a life sentence in this case would be cruel punishment, violating his client's constitutional rights.
Thorne has a long history of mental health problems, the public defender said.
"There's no mitigation for mental illness," Rothstein said. "The court has no discretion to consider mental illness. He's been in and out of institutions his entire life. He's not some criminal mastermind who should go to prison for the rest of his life."
Rothstein urged Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Gerald Knight to sentence Thorne to a standard prison term. Thorne would be in his late 70s or early 80s when released from prison and wouldn't be a threat to the public, Rothstein said.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Helen Blume argued that the robbery was a serious crime that had a profound impact on the victims.
"At some point the community needs to be protected from Mr. Thorne," she said.
Knight acknowledged Thorne's mental health problems. The judge also said that Thorne is a career criminal whose habit of breaking the law hasn't diminished with age.
"Mr. Thorne is a mature man, age-wise, and he may be a low risk to physically assault somebody. He's at a high risk of endangering and jeopardizing public safety and security," Knight said. "I just have a strong belief Mr. Thorne is going to reoffend and continue with his criminal behavior until he dies."
Thorne was sentenced under the three-strikes law once before. He'd been convicted of second-degree robbery in 1980 and first-degree robbery in 1988. He earned a third strike in 1994 after he held up the gift store at Stevens Hospital with a BB gun.
The conviction was eventually thrown out after Thorne alleged his former attorney didn't explore an insanity defense. Thorne was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
He was out of prison for just a few months when he robbed the Dollarwise store. He told a mental health evaluator he was "drawn" to the store, according to court documents
Thorne's line of thinking was difficult to follow on Tuesday as he spoke to the judge. He began by talking about different types of love and moved on to his dislike of psychotropic drugs. He then told Knight he'd led a double life and that he wanted to press charges against Snohomish County for evidence tampering and other violations.
Knight interrupted Thorne.
"I do find you are a persistent offender," Knight said. "I do sentence you to life without the possibility of parole."
Story tags » EverettCrimePrisonRobbery

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