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Serial bank robber's 45-year sentence too harsh: appeals court

(Reuters) - A 45-year prison sentence leveled against a serial bank robber, who once appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show as a "bank robbing pimp," was too harsh and must be reconsidered, a U.S. federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

Arthur Payton 47, had twice been sentenced to 10-year prison terms for previous bank robbery sprees in San Diego and Detroit when he was convicted in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan of robbing four banks in a third spree.

Payton typically found women who were drug addicted or engaged in prostitution to rob the banks on his behalf and then split the proceeds with his accomplices, the appeals court said.

Prosecutors asked a judge to sentence Payton to at least 25 years in prison, while his lawyers requested a sentence within the federal guidelines, which called for 17-1/2 to 22 years in prison based on his past and present convictions.

Judge Lawrence Zatkoff, citing Payton's brazen recidivism and threat to the public, sentenced him to 45 years in prison in February 2013.

But a sentence that more than doubles the guideline recommendation, stacks 20 years on the government's request and would keep Payton in prison until the age of 91 requires explanation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit panel said.

"We find the district court's explanation lacking in Payton's case," the judges found.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis, editing by G Crosse)

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