82-year-old bank robber says he acted out of desperation, will spend weekends in jail

Violent and property crime stats for Illinois

According to data from the FBI, property and violent crimes continue to decrease in Illinois, though the violent crime's are still slightly higher than the national average.
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According to data from the FBI, property and violent crimes continue to decrease in Illinois, though the violent crime's are still slightly higher than the national average.

The 82-year-old veteran who robbed a Benton bank of more than $12,000 last year has been sentenced to 48 months of probation and 10 weekends in county jail.

Arthur W. Bays, of Marion, said during his sentencing hearing Thursday that he acted out of desperation when he decided to rob the State Bank of Whittington with a toy gun on July 26, the Southern Illinoisan reported. Bays was arrested and charged the same day.

Bays pleaded guilty to the charges against him in November 2018, the report stated. According to a WSIL report, he will have to spend the first 180 days of his probation under house arrest, and pay $1,753 that was not recovered from the bank robbery.

At the Thursday sentencing hearing, Judge Phil Gilbert said it was a difficult decision to make. Though the judge said he knew he had to consider Bays’ sentencing hearing as a deterrent for others, he also knew that giving Bays significant incarceration time could be a life sentence.

Prosecutor George Norwood, representing the U.S. government, argued at the sentencing that Bays should be incarcerated, not placed on probation. He said that despite Bays’ age and health concerns, “it didn’t prevent him from doing it in the first (place).”

Bays’ defense attorney, Melissa Day, said that his story was “not that simple.”

According to the Southern Illinoisan report, she said Bays had been financially unstable since his wife died and that he lost his home and life savings paying for her medical care.

Norwood also commented on Bays’ gambling — three stacks of scratch-off tickets between 10 and 12 inches high were found in Bays’ apartment, the report stated — and a number of payday loans Bays had taken out.

Bays said he fell on hard times financially when the air conditioning went out in his car and he was told it would cost $2,000 to repair. He was living off of about $1,300 from Social Security and living in public housing. When a dealership talked him into buying a new car instead, he became overwhelmed trying to pay it off and took out loans from five different payday or fast cash lenders before he decided to rob a bank.

“I’m sorry I did what I did,” Bays told the court.

The bank teller who Bays threatened during the robbery in July told the court she’s still dealing with the trauma from the incident, saying she doesn’t like serving strangers, especially elderly strangers.

According to the Southern Illinoisan, Bays faced the teller as he said “I know she will never be able to forgive me.”

Bays will be allowed to leave his house arrest for legal, medical and religious appointments and will spend 10 weekly two-day stays in a county jail. Gilbert also ordered him not to gamble in any way or have contact with any State Bank of Whittington employees.

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Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.