June 3, 2014

James Nathaniel Watts Charged with Killing Two Employees and Critically Injuring One During Attempted Armed Robbery of First National Bank in Cairo

A federal grand jury sitting in Benton returned an indictment today charging James Nathaniel Watts, 29, of Cairo, Illinois, with attempted armed bank robbery resulting in death, announced Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. The indictment alleged that during the commission of his attempted robbery of the First National Bank in Cairo on May 15, 2014, Watts killed two bank employees and critically injured a third. The indictment also charged Watts with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Watts was previously charged in federal court on Friday, May 16 in a criminal complaint with the firearm offense. An affidavit attached to the complaint alleged that Watts illegally possessed a .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol on May 15 and that the firearm was found in his possession following a high-speed chase in Cairo during which Watts was driving the stolen car of one of the employee-victims from the attempted robbery. Watts was denied bond on that charge and remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal to await action by the grand jury.

Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.

The indictment returned by the grand jury also contains special findings rendering Watts eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted by a jury of the attempted robbery resulting in death offense. Under United States Department of Justice policy, however, the decision on whether or not to seek that penalty will be made at a later date and only after a comprehensive review process designed to ensure nationwide consistency in the application of the federal death penalty. If the death penalty is not sought, a conviction on that count will result in a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

If convicted of the firearm offense, Watts faces up to an additional 10 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release to follow any term of incarceration imposed.

Watts will next appear for arraignment on the indictment at the United States District Courthouse in Benton at a date and time to be set by the Court. He will remain in the custody of the United States Marshals until that time.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys James M. Cutchin and George A. Norwood.