Caleb Kara claims he had gone to an address with three men to "move furniture". The police called it aggravated robbery.
That was part of the enigma that emerged at the Christchurch District Court sentencing of the 35-year-old, a father-of-two, who says he is now a Muslim and wants to change his life.
But the Corrections department said in his pre-sentence reports he showed no sign of insight into his offending, nor any remorse.
He did not help his sentencing prospects by doing what Judge Tom Gilbert was "a runner" from his scheduled sentencing last year.
Now he has been jailed for two years and 10 months for that aggravated robbery. He served more than a year in custody during his remand - further complicated by a jail sentence for breaches of a protection order - but it will be the Parole Board that decides his release date.
Four men were arrested for the robbery. Two have been granted home detention, and Kara and one other have been jailed.
Crown prosecutor Will Taffs said there was still no acknowledgement of Kara's role in the incident.
"He says he thought he was going there to move furniture. It is at odds with all of the evidence on the court file."
Home detention was not an appropriate sentence, Taffs said.
Defence counsel April Kelland said Kara had come to the court for his sentencing in October but became anxious and left because he had no mask. Judge Gilbert said masks were always available.
Kelland said that there had been no offending or breaches while he had been on bail. He had been offending since 2000 but there had been a distinct stop of about two years.
"Obviously, he is getting older. He tells me he doesn't take drugs or alcohol. He is in a relationship, which he says is stable and supportive. He has distanced himself from gangs. He has started to turn things around."
Kara wanted the sentencing delayed again for an address to be checked for a home detention sentence, but the judge said sentencing would go ahead. Jail terms have to be below two years for home detention to be considered.
Judge Gilbert said Kara had been scheduled for sentencing with the other three in October but had not contacted his lawyer, had not seen Corrections to prepare his pre-sentence report, and had frustrated efforts to get a cultural report done. Then he "did a runner" from the courthouse door.
Corrections had plenty of material on file about him, showing that he responded poorly to rehabilitation efforts. They knew from multiple sources that he had gang links.
"You grew up in a challenging environment where anti-social and violent behaviour was normalised," the judge said.
He had joined the Mongrel Mob at age 17, but now claimed he had stopped that association.
Letters Kara sent to the judge indicated that he had "a good brain, and that you are capable of doing something productive in the community if you choose to do so", the judge said.
"Giving you the benefit of some doubt, I am willing to recognise that your attitudes may be changing as you grow older," the judge said, allowing a reduction in the sentence.