TAMPA - Instead of taking the stand, a 74-year-old man accused of robbing three Tampa banks was expected to accept a plea deal in a Tampa courtroom this morning. Instead, defense attorney Jason Issac asked that James Bruce undergo a mental evaluation before proceeding any farther.
Issac said a recently discovered medical report potentially brings Bruce's cognitive abilities into question.
Judge Gregory Holder granted the defense request and scheduled a competency hearing for October 20.
James Bruce is accused of robbing a Bank of America at 100 North Westshore Boulevard on February 10, a SunTrust Bank at 2002 South MacDill Avenue on February 1 and a Bank of America at 4825 South Manhatten Avenue on January 15.
Detectives say he used a note demanding cash in all three robberies.
When he was arrested on February 12, Bruce admitted to the crimes and told detectives he robbed the banks to pay his mortgage. He asked for $600 each time, and considered the money to be loans that he intended to pay back.
Bruce, who is in poor health, later pleaded not guilty and trial was set for today.
But last week, prosecutors and Bruce's lawyers said they had reached a possible plea deal. It's not clear how the upcoming mental evaluation might affect any resolution of the case.
The three bank robbery charges are second-degree felonies.
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