William Alfred "Al" Ginglen, 64, is a convicted bank robber, a man who robbed seven banks in central Illinois. Ginglen, a married father of four from Lewistown, Ill., was once a civic leader who served as a village trustee and zoning board chairman. He pleaded guilty in July 2005 to seven bank robberies in 2003 and 2004 and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Ginglen’s sons turned him in after one recognized him from a police surveillance tape. He had had no prior criminal record.
In his first television interview, MSNBC-TV's Rita Cosby talks to Ginglen in detail about how he led a double-life, how he carried out his crime spree and how he felt when his sons turned him in to the authorities. Rita met with Ginglen inside the Christian County Correctional Facility, in Taylorville, Illinois.
To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
RITA COSBY, HOST 'LIVE & DIRECT': How did you feel to know your sons were the ones who called authorities?
WILLIAM GINGLEN, FATHER CONVICTED OF ROBBING BANKS: I don‘t recall how I felt. I know what I thought. I thought—I really don‘t understand how they got wind of all this.
COSBY: Your youngest son doesn‘t want to talk to you. How tough has that been for you personally?
GINGLEN: That hurts a lot. Only recently have I been able to talk about that. And I still don‘t do too well.
COSBY: You obviously love your sons still.
COSBY: If they‘re watching, and I‘m sure they will watch this interview, what would you like to say to them?
GINGLEN: Listen to what I have to say, sons. I don‘t harbor any ill will and that I‘d like to—find a way to put this back together.
COSBY: How did this happen to you? You‘re a grandfather, seven grandkids, father, you had some pretty good jobs. What happened? Did you snap? Did it fall apart?
GINGLEN: It fell apart. Yep. The job situation disappeared. I mean, I‘d lost my job because of a merger. And after 500 tries at another job, I pretty much gave up. And it‘s too early to fully retire. Ran out of money.
COSBY: You went to your kids and asked for money.
GINGLEN: They have families of their own and obligations of their own and they weren‘t in a position to loan a lot of money. A time or two, yeah, I‘d borrow money for gasoline or some bill that came up that I couldn‘t tend to in time. And I‘d pay them back. But I saw my son, Jared, said, well $500 here, $500 there. I can recall one instance of $500 that was paid back in a week. But truthfully, that‘s all I recall. Maybe I‘ve got amnesia, but I don‘t think so.
COSBY: Do you think they would have given you more money if they knew how rock bottom you were?
GINGLEN: I think if they would have—I think if they could have, they would have. Yes. That‘s the way our family operated. I knew what their situation was. I helped them out over the years.
COSBY: Did you go to them and say I need help, sons, wife, please help me?
COSBY: Why not?
GINGLEN: Too proud.
COSBY: You tried drugs. You tried cocaine.
GINGLEN: Yeah. I have to say that I did. Didn‘t think it was any big deal.
COSBY: You also met another woman.
GINGLEN: I have lots of friends.
COSBY: Did you have lots of women?
COSBY: Just one. One girlfriend.
GINGLEN: I had another friend.
COSBY: You robbed seven banks, but it was five of them you actually went back to two of those.
COSBY: Why did you do that?
GINGLEN: I haven‘t got a good answer for that. In retrospect it was pretty dumb.
COSBY: You had a gun with you. One of the guns that actually one of your sons gave you as a gift.
GINGLEN: That‘s correct.
COSBY: Were you prepared to shoot that gun?
GINGLEN: Absolutely not.
COSBY: Was the gun loaded?
COSBY: So, all the times you went into the banks and you had a gun with you, it was never loaded?
COSBY: Why did you have a gun?
GINGLEN: It may sound a little stupid, but I thought, if you rob a bank, you should have a gun. Jesse James had a gun, all right? And I thought it would make things move along faster because I didn‘t intend to stage a big robbery event. I intended to do something over the counter and get gone. And if 60 seconds was the maximum amount of time I was going to spend on a situation like that.
COSBY: Didn‘t you think you‘d get caught?
GINGLEN: I think that I felt like eventually I very well might.
COSBY: Did you want to get caught? You know, you didn‘t have a very good disguise. One of your sons recognized you pretty quickly, said I think I know that shirt, that profile looks like my dad in the surveillance video. Didn‘t sound like you had a very good disguise.
GINGLEN: Well, your face is covered. I was wearing a hat that I‘ve never worn before. Nobody saw me in a hat like that. I think it would be difficult to say to a certainty that that was a particular individual.
COSBY: Did you think you had a pretty good disguise at the time?
GINGLEN: I thought so. But obviously, you know, it wasn‘t enough to throw off my sons‘ interpretation of the pictures, even though they had a wanted poster on the Web site. The county sheriff did, that said a guy about age 55, which would have been about 10 years younger, a dark bushy mustache. I‘ve never had a mustache. And the car was dark blue or black. Mine happened to be black. But, yeah, that was one question in my mind. How were they so sure?
COSBY: What do you remember from walking in the banks? What did you how did you case the places out? How did you carry it out?
GINGLEN: I didn‘t exactly case banks. You know, as most people would, I suppose. I was very knowledgeable of tracking routes across central Illinois, because I traveled it all the time. I had for many years. And I guess if I was concerned about anything, it was a matter of how do you get out of this area without confronting, you know, the police or anybody.
COSBY: How did you pick the banks? Were they ones that had easy access in and out?
GINGLEN: Primarily, yeah.
COSBY: And what did you look for once you were inside?
GINGLEN: There couldn‘t be any customers in the bank, which made it very difficult to time it. I wouldn‘t go in a bank with a customer there.
COSBY: Why was that?
GINGLEN: I felt like I increased the risk for somebody getting hurt, you know, or walk in the bank, some little old lady in there and she had a heart attack, you know. I couldn‘t live with that.
COSBY: So, you never intended to hurt anybody, never wanted to.
GINGLEN: Absolutely not, no.
COSBY: Some people have said—there was one woman who said in her statement she was scared, terrified. There are some people who even just the string of robberies taking place in the neighborhood caused a lot of fear.
GINGLEN: Yeah. And those feelings from whomever, I‘m very sorry about that. That was never the intent. I tried to make it clear, you know, the few things I said was nobody‘s going to be hurt. You‘ll be fine. You know. I‘ll be out of here in 60 seconds.
COSBY: Is that what you said to the tellers, the people—
GINGLEN: I think so. I know I told them don‘t be alarmed. You‘re not going to be hurt. I‘m not here to hurt anybody. Words to that effect.
COSBY: What if something had gone wrong? What if a teller pulled out a gun or scared somebody, somebody had a heart attack?
GINGLEN: I don‘t know what I would have done about the heart attack. That would have been a little difficult to performed CPR or something on a heart attack victim. But in any other circumstance, I think I‘d beat it right out the door.
COSBY: You had a get-away plan also.
COSBY: How long did you check places out? You said—was it days before, weeks before, hours?
GINGLEN: Weeks and weeks, maybe months. It was difficult thing to get involved with, you know. Many days I felt like, boy, I had to do something. I couldn‘t do it. I just couldn‘t do it.
COSBY: You‘re now sentenced, just a few weeks ago, 40 years in prison. Can you handle being behind bars the rest of your life? You‘re 64.
GINGLEN: If I have to, I have to. But I‘m hopeful that that‘ll be changed.
COSBY: You plan to appeal.
COSBY: What would be the grounds? They‘ve got you on videotape caught in the acts?
GINGLEN: Well, the sentence is unreasonable, which is—even the statutes use the term “unreasonable.” If you read the federal sentencing guidelines, they say first, before anything, to look at the nature and the circumstances of the offense and the background and the characteristics of the defendant. And that‘s almost a quote.
I don‘t think that was done. You know, to apply them charges and call it a vicious series of crimes is a matter of semantics, because there was no viciousness exercised, there was no one hurt, no shots fired, nothing.
COSBY: Your oldest son, has he forgiven you?
GINGLEN: I don‘t think so. I‘ve still not heard from him. That‘s another thing, you know. Doing the right thing is a wonderful thing, and I‘m proud of them for that. But I question what‘s the right thing now, you know? I caused a lot of grief in our family, but it was a very bad time and there were reasons for it. How long do I have to pay the price with my family? I don‘t know.
COSBY: But do you understand why maybe some don‘t ever want to talk to you again? Are you prepared to live with that?
GINGLEN: I‘ll live with it. That‘s their choice. And their right and privilege.
COSBY: Your grandfather, too, I‘m sure you‘d love to be playing with your grandkids. That‘s what a grandfather does, playing football or doing things. You‘re going to miss out on that, maybe.
COSBY: Going to miss out on seeing those kids grow up.
GINGLEN: Yeah. I see a lot of that in here. I see young men with children that they‘re not going to se for 10 or 15 years. And I think how hard that has to be for them. And it‘s hard for me, too.
COSBY: What is the most painful thing for you?
GINGLEN: It‘s the shame of it all.
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