Lehigh Valley

Jail time for man who crashed into S. Whitehall home

Ronnie Banks will spend up to 2 years in county prison after guilty plea in 3 crimes

Man lands in prison for up to 2 years after landing in house

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The Lehigh County man who crashed his Chevy Blazer into a South Whitehall Township home last November and ran from police escaped a possible lengthy state prison sentence.

Ronnie K. Banks pleaded guilty Tuesday in Lehigh County Court to driving under the influence and fleeing from police in connection to the Nov. 22 crash that severely damaged the home at 1920 Mauch Chunk Road. In exchange for his plea, the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office withdrew a host of other charges, including reckless endangerment, reckless driving and corruption of minors.

He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit retail theft, theft and unauthorized use of a vehicle in two unrelated cases.

Judge James Anthony sentenced the 30-year-old to a county prison term of 12 to 24 months minus one day followed by three years probation in each case. He ordered that Banks serve the sentences concurrently.

The judge fashioned the sentence so that Banks can serve his time in Lehigh County Jail as opposed to state prison. Along with ordering fines and restitution, Anthony also made Banks immediately eligible for work release.

Anthony reminded Banks that he could have faced a lengthy state prison term and made sure he understood that any problems while on probation will end with Banks spending years in state prison.

"Keep in mind what's hanging over your head," the judge said.

South Whitehall Township police tried to pull Banks over for a faulty tail light, when the Whitehall High School graduate sped away, went airborne after hitting an embankment and crashed into the front porch of a house.

Authorities said he tried to get his 17-year-old passenger to move into the driver's seat before deciding to run away from the wreck. Banks told the judge Tuesday that he had been drinking when his young cousin asked for a ride home.

As for the other charges, Banks shoplifted a $96 watch from Stein Mart in Salisbury Township and was with his fiancee at the same store a day earlier, when she stole $208 worth of merchandise.

He also stole someone's iPad and was caught driving a car that was reported stolen. Banks told the judge that the same cousin who was in the the Blazer in November asked for another ride last August.

In that case, one of the teen's friends said the car belonged to his aunt and that he was allowed to use it. Banks claimed he had no idea the car was reported stolen.

"Normally, when you get a 2009 Infiniti from a 16-year-old, you scratch your head a little," Anthony said.

Banks agreed to plead guilty and asked to be sentenced right away, so he could immediately apply for work release. Defense attorney Jared Rapa said his client does reckless, impulsive things, but that he is not a dangerous criminal.

As he gets older, Banks realizes that these "screw ups" affect others, including his three children, Rapa said.

"These are a little bit more than screw ups," Anthony said.

During the guilty plea, the judge recalled Banks' wrestling career from Allentown's West End Youth Center to his high school career at Easton Area and Whitehall high schools.

Anthony struggled with whether to immediately sentence Banks or order a pre-sentencing evaluation in order to get a handle on what happened in his life since graduation.

The judge didn't envision Banks, who lives in Alburtis, committing violent crimes, but he was concerned about his record of "exercising extremely poor judgement."

Anthony ultimately opted to immediately impose sentence as the district attorney's office had no objection to a county prison term.


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