17 July 2022

Claims nickname confusion led to involvement in extortion attempt blasted as 'ridiculous'

| Albert McKnight
Man walking with coffee

Jamie Arthur Banks, 29, approaches court for his sentencing hearing on Tuesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Confusion over the nickname ‘Jim Bob’ apparently meant a drug-addled lawnmower professional joined in the hunt for the perceived target of a “hit” because he thought the target could be himself.

But this explanation of why 29-year-old Jamie Arthur Banks participated in what turned out to be an extortion attempt has been blasted as “ridiculous” in the ACT Supreme Court.

Court documents say Banks and Jesse Christopher Kirkwood went to their victim’s home in August 2021. Kirkwood told him they were looking for another man who was the subject of a “hit” and they intended to kill this man for $25,000 unless they got the money through other means.

They forced their victim into his car and demanded he drive them to where he thought the man might be. At one point, the victim was threatened with a samurai sword.

“I’m a professional kidnapper and I’ll kill someone for a certain amount of money,” Kirkwood said at one stage, while at some point Banks remarked he “would like to grab a gun and kill someone”.

The victim drove the pair around looking for the man, but they could not find him. They then forced the victim to give them $2000.

Kirkwood, 31, pleaded guilty over his role in the incident, as did his 21-year-old co-offender Keona Rosalie Watson, and the week before Banks was to face a trial, he too admitted his guilt, pleading to charges of making a demand with a threat to kill and possessing a prohibited weapon.

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On Tuesday (12 July), barrister Steven Whybrow told the court his client, who runs a lawnmowing and landscaping business, had a minor criminal history and had “certainly graduated into the big time here”.

He argued Banks had been trying to find out who was after him because he and the apparent target of the hit had the same nickname – ‘Jim Bob’.

He said Banks eventually realised the hit on ‘Jim Bob’ was not a hit on him, but he had been abusing methamphetamine at the time and didn’t extricate him from the situation.

Mr Whybrow said his client became what Kirkwood intended him to be, which was back-up, and had gotten clean from meth over the last 11 months.

He also argued Kirkwood played a more significant role.

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But Crown Prosecutor Anthony Williamson blasted Banks’ explanation that he joined in due to confusion over the nickname, saying there was no evidence to support it and it came “purely on the say-so of the offender”.

He said Banks was essentially saying he thought he might be the subject of a “contract murder” and his reaction was not to call police and seek safety but instead to go with one of the people he thought was contemplating the murder to see what was happening.

With respect, Mr Williamson said, that was “ridiculous”.

Justice Geoffrey Kennett said he would adjourn his decision on sentencing to give it “proper thought”.

Kirkwood, who also pleaded guilty to offences from unrelated incidents, was sentenced to five years and nine months’ jail with a non-parole period of three years which means he is eligible for release in January 2025.

Watson spent months in custody before being sentenced to almost two years in jail, but this was backdated to account for time served and she was placed on an 18-month Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order.

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