Banks convicted of murder: Affected by conspiracy theories, Wheatland man gets 60 years to life

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25 Nov. Rory Banks, the 44-year-old man recently convicted of the murder of 55-year-old Ralph Mendez in Wheatland, was sentenced Tuesday by Yuba County Judge Benjamin Wirtschafter to 60 years to life for his actions on the night of May 12, 2021.

Banks, who was heavily influenced by conspiracy theories such as QAnon, murdered Mendez and plotted to kill others on the California sex offender registry. Banks was convicted of Mendez’s burglary and murder on October 28 by a Yuba County jury.

At around 12:45 p.m. on May 12, 2021, Wheatland Police Department received an 911 call related to a shooting that had occurred at the 200 block of G Street in Wheatland, the appeal previously reported. Mendez was found by law enforcement with a gunshot wound. Life-saving measures were taken, but he was pronounced dead, according to the department.

After an investigation, Banks was determined to be the suspect in the shooting.

“Banks broke into Mendez’s home and woke up Mendez and his 88-year-old mother. Banks executed Mendez and shot him in the torso and head,” Yuba County District Attorney Clint Curry said in a statement earlier. “Banks then used Mendez’s home phone to call 911. Wheatland police officers arrived within minutes and found Banks covered in blood in the driveway, with a gun on the ground nearby. Banks surrendered and confessed to the murder.”

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Wheatland Police Chief Damiean Sylvester said at the time that the incident “was not a random act” and that Mendez was believed to have been “targeted” by Banks.

According to evidence presented at Banks’ trial, it was determined that what Banks had done was not arbitrary. It was the act of a person convinced that certain conspiracy theories were real.

“Rory Banks took off just after midnight on May 12, 2021, armed with two handguns, four knives, OC spray, flashlights, a hit list of four names and addresses, and the intent to kill every person in Wheatland who was on the sex of California is mentioned. offender register,” Curry said earlier. “Banks knew none of them personally, but appointed himself judge, jury and executioner.”

Curry said Mendez was one of four men on Banks’ kill list.

At trial, Banks’ attorney argued that Banks should be found insane or given a lesser sentence of voluntary manslaughter because Banks believed he was defending the community against sex offenders—that belief is part of a conspiracy theory often promoted by supporters from QAnon. During the trial, the jury heard two psychologists who examined Banks.

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“We are grateful that the jury upheld the rule of law in this case,” Curry said earlier. “While no one likes sex offenders, you can’t lower yourself to their level, murder someone in cold blood and think you’re getting a pass.”

Banks’ association with QAnon and the theories surrounding it came up at trial. It was even revealed that Banks had a QAnon sticker on the back of his vehicle.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, “QAnon is a decentralized, far-right political movement rooted in a baseless conspiracy theory that the world is controlled by the ‘Deep State,’ a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles. … Although not all QAnon adherents its extremist, QAnon-linked beliefs have led to violent actions and eroded trust in democratic institutions and the electoral process Many QAnon influencers also proclaim anti-Semitic beliefs and the core tenets of “Pizzagate” and “Save the Children”, both of which are QAnon- adjacent beliefs play into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as Blood Libel.”

Curry previously said that Banks said he spends a lot of time on Telegram, an online messaging platform used by several QAnon influencers. He said Banks said he was always on his phone to “do research.” That “research” was what led Banks to believe some of the wild claims found online.

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The jury ultimately ruled that Banks was legally sane at the time of the murder and also found that Banks personally fired a firearm and used information from the sex offender registry to kill Mendez, the appeal previously reported.

“A big thank you to Deputy District Attorney Shiloh Sorbello for handling the case, and Yuba County Deputy Sheriff (then Wheatland Police Officer) Justin Prince for an excellent investigation,” Curry said in a statement Tuesday night. “Some people in the community have suggested that Banks was a hero to the murder of Ralph Mendez because Mendez was a registered sex offender. While I understand the sentiment, they are absolutely wrong. Our founders fought to ensure that the United States of America a “government of law and not of men.” Mendez committed his crime and received his sentence under the rule of law. Vigilance has no place in our great nation, and Banks is not a hero, he is a murderer.”

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