|Rory Banks, seen here just realizing|
Believing Q was a big mistake
Banks sentenced for murder: Influenced by conspiracy theories, Wheatland man gets 60 years to life
Robert Summa, Appeal-Democrat, Marysville, Calif.
Fri, November 25, 2022 at 4:43 AM·4 min read
Nov. 25—Rory Banks, the 44-year-old man who was recently convicted for 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, killed Mendez and had plans to kill others on California's sex-offender registry. Banks was convicted of the burglary and murder of Mendez by a Yuba County jury on Oct. 28.
At around 12:45 a.m. on May 12, 2021, the Wheatland Police Department received a 911 call related to a shooting that had taken place in the 200 block of G Street in Wheatland, the Appeal previously reported. Mendez was found by law enforcement officers with a gunshot wound. Lifesaving measures were performed but he was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the department.
After an investigation, Banks was determined to be the shooting suspect.
"Banks broke into Mendez's home, waking Mendez and his 88-year-old mother. Banks executed Mendez, shooting him in the torso and the head," Yuba County District Attorney Clint Curry previously said in a statement. "Banks then used Mendez's home phone to call 911. Wheatland Police officers arrived within minutes, finding Banks covered in blood in the driveway, with a pistol on the ground nearby. Banks surrendered and confessed to the murder."
Wheatland Police Chief Damiean Sylvester said at the time that the incident "was not a random act" and that it was believed that Mendez "was targeted" by Banks.
According to evidence presented during Banks' trial, it was determined that what Banks had done was not random. It was the act of a person convinced certain conspiracy theories were real.
"Rory Banks set out just after midnight on May 12, 2021, armed with two handguns, four knives, OC spray, strobe lights, a hit list with four names and addresses, and an intent to murder every person in Wheatland listed on California's sex-offender registry," Curry previously said. "Banks did not know any of them personally, but appointed himself judge, jury, and executioner."
Curry said Mendez was one of four men on Banks' kill list.
During the trial, Banks' attorney argued that Banks should be found insane or receive a lesser punishment of voluntary manslaughter because Banks believed he was defending the community from sex offenders — that belief is part of a conspiracy theory often pushed by supporters of QAnon. At the trial, the jury heard from two psychologists who examined Banks.
"We are thankful the jury upheld the rule of law in this case," Curry previously said. "While no one likes sex offenders, you can't lower yourself to their level, murder someone in cold blood, and think you're going to get a pass."
CLINT CURRY, persecutor
Banks' association with QAnon and theories surrounding it were brought up during the 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-worshipping pedophiles. ... While not all QAnon adherents are extremists, QAnon-linked beliefs have inspired violent acts and have eroded trust in democratic institutions and the electoral process. Many QAnon influencers also spout antisemitic beliefs and the core tenets of 'Pizzagate' and 'Save the Children,' both of which are QAnon-adjacent beliefs, play into antisemitic conspiracy theories like Blood Libel."
Curry previously said that Banks mentioned that he spent a lot of time on Telegram, an online messaging platform that is used by several QAnon influencers. He said Banks said he was always on his phone, "doing research." That "research" was what led Banks to believe some of the wild claims found online.
The jury ultimately found that Banks was legally sane at the time of the murder and also found that Banks personally discharged a firearm and used information from the sex offender registry to kill Mendez, the Appeal previously reported.
"A big thank you to Chief Deputy District Attorney Shiloh Sorbello for trying the case, and Yuba County Sheriff's Deputy (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 for murdering 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 would be a 'government of laws and not of men.' Mendez did his crime and received his punishment under the rule of law. Vigilantism has no place in our great nation, and Banks is no hero, he's a murderer."