New York escape, disguise artist sentenced to prison

NEW YORK Thu Jul 21, 2011 2:36pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A master of disguise who used fake noses and a carved soap gun to pull off robberies and prison escapes was sentenced Thursday to 28 years behind bars.

Ronald Tackman, 57, was sentenced in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, the site of his brazen escape on robbery charges in 2009, when he posed as an attorney wearing a three-piece suit and strolled out of the building.

The black socks he pulled over his prison-issued canvas shoes helped disguise his identity from court officers. He was at large for two days before police caught him.

Tackman twice before attempted to escape during his more than 20 years in prison for various convictions, including several robberies.

Once, he carved a fake gun out of a bar of soap and managed to commandeer a New York correctional bus, releasing several prisoners temporarily.

On another occasion while he was behind bars, Tackman built a double-barreled "zip gun" out of two soda cans and homemade gunpowder, using barbecue charcoal, his lawyer, Joseph Heinzmann, said. According to Heinzmann, Tackman intended to use the first barrel as a warning shot and the second as a threat but was foiled when both barrels discharged on the first shot.

After his release from prison in 2006, he returned to committing robberies, sticking up a Domino's pizza store, a Dunkin' Donuts and other stores in 2007 and 2008 in Manhattan.

Employing fake noses, various hats and eyeglasses while robbing the stores, Tackman also used a black phony gun in three of the crimes. When it shattered on the sidewalk, he continued the robbery spree using a silver cigarette lighter that looked like a gun, Heinzmann said.

At sentencing Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Charles Whitt told the court that there were two Ronald Tackmans: the amiable, intelligent man who "could talk his way out of almost any situation," and a "devious, conniving, manipulative" robber and thief.

"He is a man who has spent his entire adult life committing crimes, and there is no indication that if he ever got out of prison, he would do anything else but commit more crimes," Whitt said in asking Justice Richard Carruthers for 60 years to life.

Heinzmann pointed out Tackman's age and argued that even the minimum sentence of 16 years would amount to a life term for a man who suffers from hepatitis, diabetes and cirrhosis.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)

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