In July 2008, a disheveled, shirtless Peter Corlette Keesal** partied by himself in bushes near Aliso Viejo Town Center until an Orange County Sheriff's Department deputy found him.
Keesal, then 43 years old and unemployed, had $24.25 in a sock, (incredibly) $12,315 stuffed in one pants pocket and a half empty bottle of vodka in the other, according to an FBI report.
Three hours earlier and less than a mile away, a man wearing sunglasses and a wild Hawaiian shirt stood in line for six minutes before handing a note to a Washington Mutual Bank teller: "Give me all your cash and nobody gets hurt."
The bandit walked out with $12,345 in a plastic bag, got on a bicycle and peddled away.
During questioning with officers, Keesal claimed he'd never owned a Hawaiian shirt (lie), earned the money from work (lie) and had been on his way to buy a vehicle from a Craigslist seller (lie).
"I'll bet you a $100 bill, I'll beat this [bank robbery] case," he blurted out. "Bring it on."
In February 2009, U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter found Keesal--already a convicted felon with a rap sheet that included stealing, kidnapping and assault--guilty following a two-day trial.
Three months later inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, Carter sentenced him to a 51-month prison sentence plus three years of supervised probation.
In September 2012, officers re-arrested Keesal, who'd relapsed into alcohol abuse despite repeatedly participating in substance abuse programs, for violating his probation.
The following month Carter released him again from custody.
On Jan. 2, he was arrested once more for violating the terms of his probation and remains in the custody of U.S. Marshals.
In coming days, Keesal will have the unenviable pleasure of refacing the no-nonsense Carter, a judge who is well-known for getting the attention of troubled recidivists.
For example, one Orange County white collar criminal who had difficulty appreciating Carter's orders found himself working as a custodian around the courthouse for several months.
(**Defense lawyers for Keesal spell his middle name Corlett.)
R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. Corporate crooks won’t take his calls. Murderous gangsters mad-dogged him in court. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Pusillanimous cops have left hostile messages using fake names. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. And a frantic state legislator literally caught sleeping with lobbyists sprinted down state capital hallways to evade his questions in Sacramento.