'Plaid bandit' pleads not guilty to bank robberies


Donald Booth, 68, was arrested by the FBI and San Francisco police on Oct. 18 at his home in San Francisco's Ingleside District on suspicion of robbing the banks -- most recently an East West Bank at 555 Montgomery St. in the Financial District on Oct. 6, prosecutors said.

Booth is also suspected of robbing three other downtown banks last year: a Bank of the West at 505 Montgomery St. on June 10, 2010; a City National Bank at 150 California St. on June 21, 2010, and a U.S. Bank at 201 Montgomery St. on July 27, 2010, prosecutors said.

In the first two robberies, the robber wore a plaid shirt, and in each of the four, he used a handgun -- or possibly a replica -- as he demanded money from bank tellers, according to the district attorney's office.

Gascon said at a news conference today that the bank holdups were "terrifying ordeals for the victims," none of whom were hurt in the robberies.

Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai said he spoke on Monday to the victims in the robberies, all of whom still work at the various downtown banks.

Talai said one of the victims said, "It's nice to know I'm not going to have to see him again."

Gascon said the arrest came after an anonymous tipster identified Booth by name to a BART police officer on Oct. 18, a day after the FBI released photos of the suspect to the media.

"But for someone reporting this individual, we may still be looking for him," Gascon said. "It's really important for the public to recognize how important their participation is."

Booth already has four strikes against him and "has spent most of his adult life in prison," Gascon said.

He was convicted of kidnapping in 1973; robbery in 1977 and 1981; and attempted murder in 1981. He was also allegedly involved in an escape attempt at an Oregon prison in which a guard was shot, prosecutors said.

Booth pleaded not guilty this morning in San Francisco Superior Court to six counts of second-degree robbery and four counts of second-degree burglary.

He was ordered held in lieu of $1.1 million bail and will return to court for a pre-hearing conference on Nov. 30.

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