Bank robber apologizes before 28-year sentence imposed
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ firstname.lastname@example.org September 18, 2013 4:34PM
David Hardin | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 20, 2013 7:31AM
A bank robber apologized Wednesday to the Hammond police officer who was shot during the crime, and he also told a packed courtroom he accepted whatever punishment he got.
U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano decided that punishment would be for David Lee Hardin Jr. to spend almost 28 years in prison for his role in the Dec. 21, 2012, bank robbery of the BMO Harris Bank on Indianapolis Boulevard in Hammond and the shooting of Officer Jon Sarlea.
“I was raised better than (this),” Hardin, of Gary, told Lozano during his sentencing hearing at the U.S. District Court in Hammond, just a block from the Hammond Police Department.
About three dozen Hammond police officers and more than a dozen of Hardin’s relatives and friends attended the hearing.
Sarlea, on the force about 18 months at the time, was the first officer to respond to the robbery. He said he was shot three times — twice in the upper right thigh and once in the upper left thigh — and had to pour a cleaning solution in the wounds every day because they couldn’t be stitched for fear of infection.
“It was painful,” he said.
Walking also painful for a while, Sarlea testified, and he had to take 19 days off work.
Hardin’s attorney, Clark Holesinger, stressed at the hearing that Hardin was not the shooter, but did accept responsibility for his role in the crime.
“He did not take that gun and point that gun and shoot that gun,” Holesinger said.
Holesinger had argued that the recommended sentence — 235 months for bank robbery by force and an automatic consecutive 10 years for using a gun during a violent federal offense — punished Hardin twice for using a gun. The robbery sentence factored in that he had a gun even though he already pleaded guilty to the gun count.
“I think that for David, he essentially got a sentence equal to being a shooter,” Holesinger said after the hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nozick said the shooting could have been much worse if the bullets had struck an artery.
“Officer Sarlea is extremely fortunate that he is here today,” Nozick told the judge.
He added that although Hardin was not the shooter, he knew his co-defendant, Brealon B. Miller, Jr., who has pleaded guilty in the case, had a gun and might use it.
Although Sarlea did not testify other than about his bullet wounds, his wife, Mindy Sarlea, read a letter addressed to Hardin, saying although she doesn’t understand why he decided to rob a bank, she has forgiven him and encouraged him to seek help through religion.
“I pray you’ll take the time ahead of you to get to know God,” she said. “Please continue to better yourself.”
Members of Hardin’s family shook hands and spoke with the Sarleas after the hearing.
Judge Lozano said Hardin’s crime was motivated by greed and that he and Miller put many people in danger when they pulled the gun.
“Because those bullets can go flying right through that glass,” he said.
Along with granting the government’s request for a sentence of 335 months, Lozano also ordered restitution to BMO Harris Bank of $79,000, money which was never recovered after the robbery.