by Leah Metzler
I was recently able to view a documentary titled “The Cooler Bandits.” It’s the story of four young men who were sentenced to hundreds of years in prison for robbing Akron, Ohio, area restaurants in the early ‘90s.
The film tells the story of the four men, all in their teens and early 20s when the crimes were committed. The young offenders robbed 17 restaurants in four counties in the year leading up to late summer 1991, when they were caught and charged.
Only one of the boys, Donovan Harris, was able to hire an attorney and he got off with a relatively light sentence of 16 to 50 years after a plea bargain. Richard “Poochie” Roderick and Charlie Kelly received 69 to 159 years and each did over 20 years in prison before being released. Frankie Porter, the so-called “ringleader” of the group, received by far the harshest sentence of 200 to 500 years.
Hundreds of years for a series of restaurant robberies, where no one was injured, is absolutely shocking. At one point in the film, Frankie discusses how he called the police after one of the robberies because they had placed an elderly lady in a freezer and Frankie worried that she may suffer if she stayed in too long.
Frankie has acknowledged the foolishness of his actions at the tender age of 18 and he admits that his behavior in the courtroom may have influenced the judge’s decision to give him an extremely harsh sentence. Frankie attempted to escape twice during court proceedings and at one point told the judge to go fuck himself.
All of Frankie’s codefendants who are featured in the documentary have been released and are successfully moving on with their lives. Donovan Harris has started a cleaning business. Charlie is working as a barber after successfully obtaining his barber’s license while incarcerated; and Richard moved to California, where he is pursuing his Ph.D.
Hundreds of years for a series of restaurant robberies, where no one was injured, is absolutely shocking.
The haunting thing about the film is the fact that Frankie Porter still remains behind bars with hundreds of years left on his unusually punitive sentence. Frankie is 45 years old and has been incarcerated since he was 18. His first parole consideration will not be until he is 63 years old.
What type of justice is this? Where is Frankie’s happy ending? When will Frankie be reunited with his family? It’s time for Frankie to be released, to return to society as a productive citizen, just as his co-defendants have.
The haunting thing about the film is the fact that Frankie Porter still remains behind bars with hundreds of years left on his unusually punitive sentence. Frankie is 45 years old and has been incarcerated since he was 18.
There is hope on the horizon for Frankie in the form of an Ohio law. Frankie will be eligible for judicial release in the coming years and he hopes people will read his story and support his efforts.
Five hundred years for a crime where no one was injured is a gross miscarriage of justice, especially when the offender was only 18 years old.
If you would like to help us, please contact email@example.com. And send our brother some love and light: Frankie Porter, A243171, Richland Correctional Institution, P.O. Box 8107, Mansfield, OH 44905.