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Rip Torn denied probation in Conn. bank break-in

By Stephanie Reitz
Associated Press Writer / August 11, 2010

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LITCHFIELD, Conn.—Rip Torn's request for a probation program was rejected Wednesday by a judge who kept criminal charges in place against the Emmy-winning actor accused of breaking into a bank while drunk and armed in January.

One charge carries a mandatory year in prison, though Torn's attorney said they would seek a plea deal to avoid prison time for the 79-year-old actor.

Torn has pleaded not guilty to trespassing, carrying a weapon while intoxicated, carrying a weapon without a permit and criminal mischief.

Litchfield Superior Court Judge James Ginocchio ruled the charges are too serious to qualify for a program called accelerated rehabilitation, especially since Torn was still in a court-ordered alcohol education program from a drunken driving charge -- later dismissed -- at the time of the alleged bank break-in.

The accelerated rehabilitation program for first-time, nonviolent offenses would have cleared his record after he completed probation.

"There's some indication here that even when supervised, alcohol is still a problem," Litchfield State's Attorney David Shepack said as Torn, who did not speak, sat quietly with his attorney in the mostly empty courtroom.

It was a stark contrast to the media frenzy at his arraignment after the Jan. 29 incident in which prosecutors say Torn, after a night of drinking, broke into the Salisbury bank branch after hours because he mistook the house-like building for his nearby home.

That media attention is one of the factors that will motivate Torn to remain sober and continue following the court's orders, his attorney, A. Thomas Waterfall, said in requesting the accelerated rehabilitation program.

"This is embarrassing. Mr. Torn likes to be known for the 'Men in Black' movies and the good positive things he's done in his life, not this. So I think that in and of itself is a deterrent," Waterfall said.

Waterfall also asked for a court-ordered evaluation of Torn's alcohol dependency issues. Depending on the results, Torn could be ordered to undergo up to two years of state-monitored treatment and the charges could be dropped.

He returns to court Sept. 15, though the evaluation is not expected to be done by then.

Torn, who played Chief Zed in the "Men in Black" films, was arrested Jan. 29 when police responded to an alarm at a Salisbury bank where a window had been broken.

Police found his boots and hat neatly placed by the door and found Torn wandering inside, carrying a loaded .22-caliber pistol for which his permit had expired more than two years earlier. Officers found the weapon in his pocket during the search; he didn't brandish it or threaten them, court records say.

Torn had a blood-alcohol content of 0.203 two hours after being taken into custody, according to court records. That's about 2 1/2 times the legal limit for drivers in Connecticut.

Waterfall has said Torn remembers nothing of that night.

Since then, Torn has completed a two-month intensive inpatient alcohol treatment program and five months of intensive outpatient counseling.

He participates in Alcoholics Anonymous, is resuming his acting career and has gotten rid of his guns despite being a lifelong hunter and sportsman for whom carrying a gun was just part of the routine of living in a rural area, Waterfall said.

The actor has appeared on the television show "30 Rock" and won an Emmy in 1996 for his work on "The Larry Sanders Show."

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