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After 18 days on the lam, escapee ordered held on no bail

Kenneth Conley sits backsevehicle as he is driven away from Kluczynski Federal Building January. File Pho| Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

Kenneth Conley sits in the backseat of a vehicle as he is driven away from the Kluczynski Federal Building in January. File Photo | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 7, 2013 6:47AM



He rappelled down from his 17th-floor downtown prison cell, authorities say, in a daring escape that might have been ripped from the script of a Hollywood blockbuster.

But after 18 days on the lam, Kenneth Conley cut a desperate figure Saturday as he returned to federal court following his capture — this time in chains and a wheelchair.

With his badly swollen, uncovered left foot in front of him, Conley largely was silent during a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan.

“Yes, your honor,” the convicted bank robber told Finnegan when asked whether he understood he faces up to five years behind bars if convicted for the Dec. 18 escape.

Already facing up to 20 years for a 2011 bank robbery, the bearded and balding Conley had complained of feeling ill following his arrest, delaying the start of Saturday’s hearing.

When federal marshals eventually wheeled him into court, he was wearing a medical brace on his left leg, apparently injured during his arrest Friday afternoon in Palos Hills.

Conley’s lawyer, Gary Ravitz, photographed the injured foot with the judge’s permission, saying he wanted to ensure that Conley gets proper treatment. Conley had been seen Friday by doctors at Palos Community Hospital.

Finnegan ordered him held without bail, as requested by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Baker, who called Conley a “danger to the community and a risk of flight.”

Outside the courtroom, Ravitz said that Conley “seemed to be in relatively good spirits, given the situation.”

Conley, 38, had been set to be sentenced next week on the original bank robbery conviction — a hearing that’s now likely to be delayed.

His court appearance Saturday came a day after authorities were alerted by two maintenance workers to his whereabouts in the 10200 block of South 86th Terrace in Palos Hills.

The fugitive was dressed to look like an old man, wearing sunglasses, a beret and an overcoat and walking with a cane, Palos Hills Deputy Police Chief James Boie said. He had no ID or money on him and gave officers a fake name, Boie said.

When Conley realized he was about to be captured, he punched one of the officers and ran, Boie said. He was arrested minutes later, trying to break in to a nearby home, according to Boie.

Conley appeared to have been hiding out by squatting in a basement, but it wasn’t clear how long he had been there.

Authorities say Conley and Joseph “Jose” Banks used a rope made of bed sheets to break out of their 17th-floor cell at the Metropolitan Correction Center in downtown Chicago on Dec. 18. The pair briefly stopped at Conley’s mother’s house in Tinley Park, authorities say, but took off before they could be rearrested.

Banks was captured Dec. 20 after a tipster alerted authorities he was staying in Lincoln Park, an area where he once lived.

Last week, prosecutors dropped escape charges against Banks because he already faces up to 80 years in prison. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, would not comment Saturday when asked whether Conley’s case also would be dropped.



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