If Western New York's oldest bank robber thought his age would get him a break when he came to federal court for sentencing Friday, he was standing in front of the wrong judge.
William F. Voll of Millersport Highway, who turned 70 in September, appeared for sentencing before U.S. District Judge John T. Elfvin, who celebrated his 80th birthday in June.
Elfvin rejected a defense lawyer's pleas to make a rare exception to federal sentencing guidelines and allow Voll to escape prison. Instead, Elfvin sent Voll to federal prison for 30 months. He could have given him 39 months.
Most of those who appear before him for bank robbery are young blacks, the judge said, not elderly white men like Voll, a college-educated man who, dressed in a gray suit on Friday, looked much like a retired banker.
"I sentence them fairly harshly," Elvin said. "I find I cannot find it in my stomach to treat you better than I do them."
Age had nothing to do with Voll's reasons for holding up an M&T Bank branch at 4565 Main St. in Amherst last April.
Voll, a real estate agent until he was arrested, told the judge he needed money because as he now realizes, he was an alcoholic and a compulsive gambler.
Voll walked into the M&T branch in Snyder and handed the teller a note, wrapped around a .45-caliber bullet.
"Quiet," the note stated. "Put all the large bills from drawer one and two in the bag. Be fast. No alarm until I'm gone."
But Voll is not exactly a robust man. He limped into court Friday and said he has health problems from his drinking.
By the time he finally made his way from the bank with $4,000 in a cloth bag, employees had plenty of time to get a good description of his car. It was only a matter of time before Amherst police tracked him down. He showed no gun at the bank, but police said they found a semi-automatic pistol inside his car.
Voll pleaded guilty to bank robbery in June and told the judge Friday that he was solving his problems through his family, Gamblers Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.
"I apologize, I'm sorry," Voll told the judge. "I'm disgraced, I'm embarrassed for what I did. I should never have done it."
John E. Rogowski, an assistant U.S. attorney who earlier said that Voll's age gave him no license to rob a bank, opposed defense requests for leniency.
Public defender John F. Humann told Elfvin that if Voll were 20 years old, he would ask the judge to sentence him to shock camp, or the prison for young, first time offenders who go through an exhausting physical routine.