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Abraham Wilson Jr.

Accused Fargo bank robber blames mental illness for his crimes

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MOORHEAD - The court system hasn't given up on Abraham Wilson Jr., but he may have given up on it.

Wilson is being held in the Clay County Jail, facing charges that he led officers on a high-speed car chase on Jan. 8 that ended in Moorhead after he allegedly robbed Cornerstone Bank in Fargo. Police also think he's responsible for the Jan. 6 robbery of Stop-N-Go at 3220 12th Ave. N. in Fargo.

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In a phone interview from the jail, Wilson told The Forum on Monday he won't fight the charges. He said with what authorities have on him, he "doesn't have a snowball's chance."

"I've been mentally ill 20 years," the 46-year-old said. "I just started slipping and slipping and slipping. ... The mental illness pretty much compels you."

Wilson said he was diagnosed years ago with schizoaffective disorder with anxiety. He said an episode of that illness, which causes delusional thinking and impulse control problems, was what prompted the robberies.

Wilson said he does not yet have an attorney, but plans to plead guilty on both charges at the first available opportunity.

"It's been one step forward, two steps back," he said.

Court records show that Wilson, who has a criminal record that includes robbery, terrorizing and marijuana offenses, was deemed not responsible for a robbery back in 1996 because of severe mental illness.

At the time of his arrest, he was on federal probation after pleading guilty to a bank robbery in October 2003 at the time of his arrest for the two current robbery charges.

Court documents also show the probation officer assigned to Wilson's case said he has a history of armed robbery when off his medication and smoking marijuana, and that he had not been taking his medication and had failed a urine test for marijuana the day before the Stop-N-Go robbery.

"I'm sure he's been in and out," said retired Judge Georgia Dawson, who recalls receiving a two-page letter Wilson once sent her while she was presiding over his case, threatening to cut her up with a chainsaw.

Dawson said cases like Wilson's involving long-standing mental health issues are fairly common in the criminal court system.

"They take their medication, they become lucid, they get out and refuse to take their medication or meet with their health care provider, and then they lose control," she said.

Dawson said there are stringent requirements for long-term civil commitments for people on mental health grounds. Judges must base a commitment, in part, on whether the person is harmful to themselves or to others.

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