Note: This story was last updated at 4:10 p.m.
KNOXVILLE—One of the two suspects in three alleged bank extortion and carjacking plots that involved bank employees and their family members, including at Y-12 Federal Credit Union in Oak Ridge, is facing a minimum mandatory sentence of 142 years in prison, if he is convicted on all 15 charges that he faces, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.
Brian Witham pleaded not guilty to the 15 charges—which include bank extortion, attempted bank extortion, carjacking, and brandishing a firearm while committing a crime—during a 20-minute arraignment and initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Knoxville on Tuesday afternoon.
A trial has been set for March 29.
Witham’s alleged co-conspirator, Michael Benanti, has an initial appearance and arraignment scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday.
The two were indicted by a federal grand jury on December 15 for plots that involved kidnapping family members and robbing or attempting to rob three banks and credit unions in Oak Ridge, Knoxville, and Elizabethton, Tennessee. Benanti, 43, is from Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania, and Witham, 45, is from Waterville, Maine. [Read more…]