In his heyday, Robert Woodring was a con man who lived a life of intrigue and adventure, then successfully went on the lam for 37 years to avoid going to prison.***
Law enforcement finally tracked him down a year ago in Guadalajara, Mexico, and he was sent back to South Florida to serve his time for the original offenses and to pay the price for eluding justice.
But by Monday, when the 82-year-old Woodring was to be sentenced for jumping bond in 1977, the ravages of time had created another twist: He was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and dementia and was found legally incompetent to be sentenced.
His medical diagnosis does not mean he will get a free pass from the legal system.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke met privately with probation officials and then held a lengthy sidebar discussion with Salnick and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert T. Watson.
The judge decided the most practical course of action was to send Woodring to a federal prison hospital, where he can receive appropriate treatment. She recommended sending him to Butner Federal Medical Center in North Carolina.
For technical legal reasons, she gave him a provisional sentence of one year in federal prison for the bond-jumping offense and recommended the prior 7.5-year term, imposed by judges who are long dead, also be converted to a provisional sentence because it is unlikely Woodring would ever be restored to legal competency.
Woodring, dressed in khaki prison scrubs and using a wheelchair, joked affably with the deputy marshals who escorted him to the Miami courtroom from the neighboring Federal Detention Center.
He did not speak during the hearing but was overheard talking with his lawyer, saying at one point: "Life is short."
Salnick said Judge Cooke's sentencing was "the very kind and very humane thing to do."