SAN DIEGO — A man who told police he was on a cocaine binge and had hit rock bottom when he robbed three banks in a week last summer was sentenced Friday to three years in prison.
Douglas Michael Ellens, 40, pleaded guilty in November to robbery charges. In January, defense attorney Doug Miller told Judge Leo Valentine that his client has a cocaine and alcohol problem and should be placed on probation and given a chance in a drug rehabilitation program.
The judge ordered a 90-day diagnostic study so prison officials could evaluate Ellens and recommend either probation or prison. Ellens was returned recently to San Diego.
While a psychologist said Ellens might make it on probation, officials at the Department of Corrections recommended that the defendant be sentenced to prison to pay for his crimes.
“This case is not just about you,” Valentine told the defendant. “It’s a tough way to cry for help … robbing banks. I see it as an act of desperation.”
Ellens told the judge he didn’t like prison when he was there to be evaluated. He asked the judge to place him on probation.
“I just ask for a chance,” the defendant said. “I need help.”
Deputy District Attorney Roy Lai said one of Ellens’ victims was traumatized so badly that she had to quit her job.
Lai said the defendant’s crimes — in which he used the threat of a weapon — were serious and deserved a prison commitment.
Ellens’ weeklong robbery spree began Sept. 5 at a US Bank branch in the 5400 block of Balboa Avenue in Clairemont Mesa.
Bank teller Pamela Gonzalez testified at an October hearing that Ellens approached her station and handed her a note telling her to stay calm and hand over all of the money in her cash drawer. Gonzalez said she was told the robber got away with about $6,000.
About 3:20 p.m. Sept. 12, Ellens handed a demand note to a teller at a US Bank branch in the 4800 block of Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach, then did the same about 90 minutes later at a Comerica Bank branch in the 3300 block of Rosecrans Street in the Midway area, SDPD public-affairs Lt. Kevin Mayer said.
Several hours later, officers tracked the suspect down at a Super 8 motel two blocks from the site of the third robbery and arrested him without a struggle.
San Diego police Detective DeWayne Glazewski testified that Ellens told him that he had been on a crack cocaine binge after breaking up with his girlfriend and had been living in his car.