By DENISE SEYFER
Mount Mary University graduate Jessica Benson made her second court appearance on Monday, April 28. She pleaded not guilty to one count of robbery of a financial institution, as a party to a crime.
Under the advice of her attorney, Alejandro Lockwood, Benson waived her right to a preliminary hearing in front of Judicial Court Commissioner Maria Dorsey. Benson chose, instead, to be scheduled for a bench or jury trial.
After the hearing, a Milwaukee Police Department detective said waiving her right to a hearing is “a good sign” because “she is cooperating.”
“She got in with the wrong crowd,” said Donna Benson, Jessica’s mother, before the hearing commenced. She said her daughter was frightened at the thought of serving a potential 40-year sentence if found guilty. Under a Felony C conviction, she could also be fined not more than $100,000.
According to her criminal complaint, Benson is accused of allegedly planning the robbery at the Educators Credit Union at 7025 W. Appleton Ave. in Milwaukee on May 7, 2013, with three other men: her boyfriend, Nathaniel Robinson, who has yet to be charged; Ricardo Perkins, who was sentenced to four years in prison and four years probation; and Kevin Blackburn, who is serving 10 years in prison and six years probation for the crime.
In the criminal complaint against Benson, Perkins reported that Benson explained “the best day to hit the bank would be Tuesday” because there would supposedly be a money drop equaling $400,000 that day and “it would be best to do it in the evening.”
The criminal complaint also stated that on May 6, the day before the robbery occurred, Benson allegedly showed Perkins the bank’s robbery procedures and guidelines, while at a barbecue at Blackburn’s house.
Benson and Robinson went missing days after the robbery.
Nearly one year later, the MPD asked the U.S. Marshals Service for assistance. Benson was captured on April 4. She was alone in a hotel room in Waukegan, Illinois, at the time of her arrest, said an official from the U.S. Marshals office.
She was held in the Lake County Jail where the MPD’s extradition unit picked her up and brought her back to Milwaukee on April 15, said MPD Officer Jeffrey Boehm.
Many students, faculty, friends and family still question why a Caroline Scholar — a girl with a full scholarship and degree in chemistry — would become involved in a felony.
“Jessica Benson is a beautiful woman with a big heart,” said Mount Mary student Olivia Stich. “Her compassion is beyond words. I stand behind her no matter what happens.”
Benson’s next court appearance will be at a scheduling conference on May 13.