Bank-robbing Army Ranger sentenced for plotting to kill federal prosecutor
A former Army Ranger who masterminded a 2006 Tacoma bank robbery was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison for assaulting a co-defendant in prison and plotting to kill a federal prosecutor.
Seattle Times staff reporter
In the twisted logic of former Army Ranger and convicted bank robber Luke Sommer, doing 44 years behind bars as a perceived tough guy was preferable to doing half that time as a nobody felon.
So the 23-year-old Sommer last year attacked one of his robbery co-defendants in prison with a knife and then tried to hire a hit man — an undercover FBI agent — to kill the Seattle federal prosecutor who sent him to prison in the first place.
Those acts got him an additional 20 years in prison Monday, added on top of a 24-year sentence for masterminding a takeover robbery at a Tacoma bank in 2006.
Sommer had pleaded guilty to two felonies in January — assault with a deadly weapon and solicitation of a crime of violence — and agreed to the 20-year sentence. Sentencing guidelines provided for a maximum 30-year sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Gruber, urging the court to accept the plea, said Sommer had proved himself "a very dangerous person who needs to be locked up for a very long time."
The additional two decades in prison are all because "he wanted to be known in the system as a big shot, someone not to be messed with," Gruber said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dion — the target of Sommer's planned hit — seemed baffled and saddened by it all.
"The strange thing is that [Sommer] made a self-conscious decision to become a bad person," said Dion, who addressed the court as a victim and not a prosecutor. "It's sad. ... He's become a nihilist where nothing matters. He's created a nightmare world for himself, and now he has to live in it."
Dion urged Sommer to "give up the idea of Luke Sommer, action hero or Luke Sommer the bad guy" and live a productive life, even if it's behind bars.
Sommer initially said he wasn't going to address the court, but after Dion and Gruber spoke he changed his mind.
"Both of these fine gentlemen are correct," Sommer said in a rambling monologue in which he said he was bitter and merely accepting the "fact that I'm screwed" in facing a prison sentence nearly twice as long as he's been alive.
He said the prison knife attack was intentionally superficial and his effort to hire a hit man was aimed to bolster his reputation in prison. He apologized to Dion.
"You don't deserve to get smoked," he said. "I'm glad you're still here."
U.S. District Judge James Robart signed off on the plea deal, and agreed with Sommer that 44 years is a daunting sentence. "It's a long time. But you should think about not wasting it. You have a mind. Use it."
Sommer was sentenced to 24 years in prison in December 2008 for armed bank robbery, conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence and possession of an unregistered destructive device.
Prosecutors said Sommer recruited two other Army Rangers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and two Canadian nationals to rob a Bank of America branch in Tacoma on Aug. 7, 2006.
During the robbery, the men wore body armor in case of a shootout with police and carried hundreds of rounds of extra ammunition. Two of them carried fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles, and two carried loaded semi-automatic handguns.
The men escaped with $50,000 but soon were tracked to Fort Lewis. Sommer claimed he planned the robbery to call attention to his disapproval of the war in Iraq, but prosecutors said he wanted to use the money to start his own crime family.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or email@example.com
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
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