Former MIT Lecturer Charged in NYC Bank Robbery

Still from surveillance footage allegedly showing Joseph Gibbons in mid-bank robbery.
Still from surveillance footage allegedly showing Joseph Gibbons in mid-bank robbery. –New York Police Department

The things people (allegedly) do for art.

Joseph Gibbons, a filmmaker and former MIT lecturer, has been charged with robbery after he allegedly filmed himself robbing a Capital One bank branch in New York City on December 31.

The New York Post reports that Gibbons, 61, presented a note to the teller at the bank’s Bowery Street branch and allegedly made off with about $1,000 in cash, all while holding a camcorder. Police arrested him on January 8.

As he awaited arraignment, Gibbons told a cellmate that he had been conducting research for a film, according to the Post. The “dazzled’’ cellmate told the paper: “It’s not a crime; it’s artwork.’’

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Gibbons is known for gaining inspiration from unconventional sources. In an interview with the art journal Big Red & Shiny, he discussed “the romantic idea of the artist getting involved in these kinds of activities as a kind of research.’’

“These kinds of activities’’ included drug addiction and voyeurism. He told the journal:

“I just worried if I had enough problems within me that I could exploit. So when I ran of my own—I started creating them—I made one or two films based on drug addiction. Before that it was voyeurism; I sort of discovered and cultivated a voyeurism in myself, so it started out being a theoretical film but it turned into a film exploring my own perversions.’’

Gibbons’s MIT profile says his work is “characterized by a time-honored approach — that of the artist’s use of his own life as source material, a laboratory for self-observation and experimentation.’’

After his stint at MIT ended in 2010, Gibbons began working as a video editor and consultant at Fugitive Productions, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The Boston Herald reports that Gibbons pleaded not guilty to the charge at his arraignment Friday and was ordered held on $50,000 cash bail. He’ll be back in a New York City court for a pretrial hearing on April 14.

The Herald also reports that Gibbons is wanted in Providence for a similar robbery at a Citizens Bank in November. According to the Providence Journal, a “tall, thin white man who appeared to be in his early 50s’’ made off with $3,000 and told the teller “thank you, this is for the church.’’

Correction: This article previously identified Gibbons as a professor at MIT. He was actually a lecturer at the university.

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