'Tuition Bandits' Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

Two Ohio students who robbed a bank at gunpoint and later claimed they needed the money for college tuition had the proverbial book thrown at them Thursday when a judge sentenced them to the maximum - 20 years in prison.

"If you get to that point, robbing people isn't the answer. It never has and it never will be,'' Hamilton County common pleas judge Steven Martin told the pair, according to the Associated Press.

Chilling surveillance photos taken July 17 at the Valley Central Savings Bank in Reading, Ohio, show two men, armed with a shotgun and an automatic handgun, hopping over the teller's window and aiming at least one of the weapons directly in the faces of bank employees. At one point, one of the young men appears to rest the tip of a black shotgun on the shoulder of a teller as she gathers money.

"I think, short of robbing a bank, you would talk to your mom" about tuition problems, Hamilton County prosecuting attorney Joe Deters told ABC News recently. "There's a lot of different [financial aid] resources out there, especially if you have a genuine need. They are going to be able to get a grant. They are going to be able to get a loan."

"Failing to avail themselves of that," he said dryly, "you don't need $130,000 to go to Toledo University."

"I think they just wanted money," he said later.

Christopher Avery, a 22-year old University of Cincinnati student, and Andrew Butler, 20, who attended the University of Toledo, pleaded guilty to two charges of aggravated robbery and six charges of kidnapping, Deters said. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 27.

"In Ohio, if you go into a bank and tell people they can't leave, that's kidnapping," Deters said. He said neither of the young men had any prior criminal records.

The surveillance photos taken July 17 at the Valley Central Savings Bank in Reading, Ohio, show two men, armed with a shotgun and an automatic handgun, hopping over the teller's window and aiming at least one of the weapons directly in the faces of bank employees. At one point, one of the young men appears to rest the tip of a black shotgun on the shoulder of a teller as she gathers money.

Deters said the employees were "traumatized" by the robbery, but no injuries were sustained during the incident.

Relatives of the pair who came to court this week reportedly rose to the young men's defense.

Butler's mother told the Cincinnati Inquirer that he had a scholarship, but it was not enough to cover his expenses. While she hasn't discussed the case with her son, she knew he was struggling. "I know he felt overwhelmed," Franki Butler-Kidd said. "There was a lot of pressure."

She said her son was one of two black students from Taft Information Technical High School in Ohio to receive $20,000 from Cincinnati Bell, to be awarded over four years, according to the newspaper.

"Tuition was high even with the scholarship," she said. Regretfully, she told the Inquirer, "I felt he could have been king, the president, anything he wanted. But he threw away all those opportunities."

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