Australian relationship author Corey Donaldson walked up to the lectern in the US District Court in Wyoming, looked at the jury, and then began to cry.
"I feel like a frightened child," Donaldson said, dabbing his face with a tissue.
"I feel there's a lot of people who want to cut my throat."
Donaldson has entered a not guilty plea to using intimidation to rob $US140,000 ($A135,645) from a bank in the Wyoming ski resort town of Jackson Hole on New Year's Eve.
But during a dramatic, tear-filled day of testimony, the 40-year-old who grew up in Melbourne's outer suburbs, admitted to committing the robbery.
Donaldson, who is representing himself at the trial, portrayed himself as a Robin Hood.
In his opening address, he told how he was disturbed families across America were losing their homes to bank foreclosures and were left on the street. But banks, when they were in trouble during the financial crisis, received bailouts from the US government.
"I felt I was going to do something on my own that would be disobedient," Donaldson said.
"I was going to put people first."
Donaldson said he decided he would "confiscate" money from the US Bank branch in Jackson Hole and redistribute it to the poor and homeless in America.
"That's what I did," Donaldson said.
Donaldson has had several relationship books published by Random House.
The prosecutor, Todd Shugart, two FBI officers and the bank branch manager, Jared Williams, who came face-to-face with Donaldson on New Year's Eve, painted a different picture of Donaldson.
Mr Shugart, in his opening address, told the jury how Donaldson walked into the bank and warned Mr Williams Mexican drug cartel thugs had planted military grade explosives outside the bank and if $US2 million was not handed over the building would be blown up.
Mr Williams, who shook nervously on the stand and came close to tears, told how Donaldson handed him a note.
"The letter said if I didn't comply with everything I would be hunted down and killed," Mr Williams testified.
He has had panic episodes in public since the robbery, he said.
Donaldson attempted to quiz Mr Williams about the US Bank, including "the bank's worth in assets".
When Mr Williams said he did not know, Donaldson replied: "It would be around $US352 billion".
While Donaldson told how his motivation was to help the poor, he did not skimp on hotels.
A receipt was produced to the jury showing Donaldson, who used the alias Doobie Zonks, stayed in a $US309 a night suite in one of Salt Lake City's finest hotels, the Grand America, and paid the $US3500 bill in cash.
Utah police officer Adam Hansen told how when Donaldson, who was being chauffeured around in a hired van, was pulled over and arrested on January 23 they found "a large amount of cash".
Officer Hansen said some of the cash was in stamped envelopes addressed to Donaldson's family members in Victoria, including $US10,000 split into $US2,000 lots in five envelopes addressed to a Narre Warren post office box.
"I thank you for always being there for me," a note in a letter addressed to Leigh Donaldson allegedly said.
A close friend, Kevin Day, who was facing losing his house to foreclosure in Utah, told the court how he received a voice mail from Donaldson on New Year's Eve to look under the mat at his front door.
"What was in the package?" Donaldson asked Day during cross-examination.
"$US8,000," Day replied.
"How did you feel when you recovered that?" Donaldson asked.
"I was pretty emotional," Day, weeping, replied.
"Why was that?" Donaldson asked.
"It came at a good time," Day said.
The trial continues.