The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 18, 2013

Bank robber's case takes another odd turn

Man in Black delays sentencing with more motions

A bank robber who has kept a federal judge busy with dozens of legal maneuvers since he was arrested in St. Peter almost two years ago threw another stick in her spokes Monday and avoided being sentenced, at least for awhile.

Mark Wetsch, 51, also known as the "Man in Black" and Sheikh Bilaal Muhammad Arafat, was scheduled to be sentenced Monday for bank robbery by Judge Susan Nelson. Prosecutors asked Nelson to sentence Wetsch to 14 years in prison after he admitted to robbing a bank in St. Peter, a bank in Gaylord and about 30 other banks in Minnesota. He was arrested in St. Peter in January 2012 by a police officer who suspected Wetsch would be passing through town after robbing a bank in Brewster.

When Wetsch appeared in Nelson's courtroom Monday, he filed two motions: one to withdraw his plea and one to have Nelson removed from his case.

Nelson delayed the sentencing and gave prosecutors until Dec. 9 to respond to Wetsch's motions.

The motions are among many twists and turns for the case, in which Wetsch has been representing himself. Requests to have separate trials for each robbery and for a judge's order to have prosecutors and federal jail staff address him as Sheikh Bilaal Muhammad Arafat are among many odd motions he's filed.

In his motion to withdraw his plea, Wetsch said he was coerced into accepting a plea agreement with prosecutors and that the 14-year sentence he is facing isn't justifiable. The motion claims he was misinformed by prosecutors about what his sentence would be and coerced into making the plea by Nelson.

Wetsch's 16-page motion cites several court rules and statistics while, among other things, claiming the federal court system is rigged.

"Empirical data shows that the Federal Judicial System is not based on criminal trials," the motion says. "Instead, it is based on a (carefully) choreographed system of unfair plea agreements."


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