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Daring MCC escapee: My cellmate made me do it

He was one half of one the most daring prison escapes in Chicago history.

But bank robber Jose Banks has an excuse ready for why he rappelled to freedom from the 17th floor of the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center two years ago.

His cellmate forced him to, he claims in a court filing ahead of his Wednesday sentencing hearing.

Kenneth Conley “threatened to kill Mr. Banks if he did not assist him or if he told anyone about what he had seen” in the escape, Banks’s lawyer, Beau Brindley, argued in the filing.

And while Banks “does not deny that he constructed the rope and harness” that he and Conley used to rappel down the outside of the prison from bedsheets and dental floss, “Banks was indeed afraid” of Conley, who he believed was being protected by prison guards, Brindley wrote.

Banks was convinced the loud noises Conley made bashing a hole in the side of their cell in the high-rise jail could only have been tolerated if guards were in on the scam, he added.

Brindley — who is himself federally indicted for allegedly soliciting perjury in an unrelated case — hopes the argument will sway U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer into handing Banks a more lenient sentence of 15 years or less.

But prosecutors want Pallmeyer to hand Banks a 45-year sentence for his run of bank heists. Though they dropped escape charges against Banks last year, they say the high profile jailbreak should be held against him.

Banks, an eccentric 39-year-old known as the “Second Hand Bandit” thanks to the thrift-store disguises he donned during a series of heists, faces a maximum of 80 years.

He spent just two days on the run following his December 2012 escape before he was caught. Brindley argued that Banks never harmed anyone during his time on the loose, adding that he simply “went back to the only neighborhood he had ever known and awaited inevitable arrest.”

Conley — a fellow bank robber — managed to stay free for 18 days, but is now serving a 23-year sentence. He told the judge who sentenced him in February to “stick it right up your ass.”