Suspect in $50,000 N.D. bank robbery shows strange behavior
GILBY, N.D. - It was a simple question: "Are you Clifton Patterson?"
Nevertheless, Judge Karen Braaten had to ask it five times before she got a response from a man who the FBI has fingered in a Gilby, N.D., bank robbery.
Patterson eventually acknowledged, or at least seemed to acknowledge, that he was who he was, uttering a "yeah."
The 63-year-old looked confused and, at times, distressed Friday during his first appearance on charges that he stole a 2008 Jeep Compass, a sport utility vehicle investigators believe was used in the May 26 robbery at the small-town bank.
Patterson muttered to himself, posed out-of-context questions and made off-the-wall comments throughout the hearing. But State's Attorney Peter Welte wasn't buying it.
"Since he's arrived here and realized he's appearing for a bond hearing, he's undergone some curious changes in his personality and his mood," Welte told the judge. "The state's position is that he's trying to get released so that he can be evaluated psychologically."
Person of interest
Patterson was arrested in Mississippi last month and held there until he was transferred to the Grand Forks County jail this week.
On Friday in court, Welte emphasized Patterson's lengthy criminal history.
"He has multiple priors, multiple prior armed robberies," Welte told the judge. "He's spent most of his life in prison on the installment plan."
The judge ordered that Patterson remain in jail, scheduled a Monday bail hearing for him and approved him for a court-appointed attorney.
Outside court, Welte said he does not know of Patterson having a history of being mentally ill or feigning such a condition.
"If he has taken a turn for the worse, vis-a-vis his competency, we certainly aren't trying to capitalize that or anything like that. We just want to make sure his rights are protected," Welte said.
Patterson was living in Grand Forks but is originally from Baltimore. He's facing state felony charges of theft and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
The Jeep was found abandoned in rural Honeyford, N.D., about three miles south of Gilby, shortly after the stickup. Corwin Chrysler at 1315 S. Columbia Road in Grand Forks said the Jeep had gone missing a few days before robbery investigators called the dealership.
Another man appeared in surveillance stills captured during the heist in which the robbers stole more than $50,000. So far, Patterson has been the sole person of interest specified publicly by investigators. Patterson has not been charged in the robbery.
Friday's hearing, which lasted less than eight minutes, contained several bizarre exchanges between Patterson, who appeared in court via interactive television, and the judge.
At the start of the hearing, the judge introduced herself to Patterson. His response: "Have you got Rose Struts in there?"
"Rose Struts? No, there is no Rose Struts in the courtroom," the judge said.
During a later exchange, it became apparent Patterson wasn't talking about a person.
"They got these rose struts in it that control me, so I can't eat any more," he said.
At one point, Patterson quietly said: "I don't want to go back down there no more."
And then asked the judge: "Is you going to send me back there over to the other jail where I was at?" He went on to say that, at that jail, men made him perform oral sex for cigarettes.
"I'm not sending you anywhere today. I just want to tell you what charges have been brought against you," the judge replied.
Another strange exchange:
"Are you a letter person?" Patterson asked.
"Pardon me?" the judge said.
"Are you a letter person?" he asked. "Are you with the letter people?"
"I am a district judge here in Grand Forks, North Dakota. That's what I am."
"You seem like a nice lady."
"Oh, I'm a real nice lady."
"I'm going to send you some commissary so you can eat."
"Oh, I eat plenty. Don't worry about me."