Former U.S. Army Ranger Luke Sommer has spent the past 15 years in Florida’s Coleman II maximum-security federal prison.
The dual U.S.-Canadian citizen was sentenced to 24 years in 2008 for orchestrating a 2006 bank heist in Tacoma, Washington, in which Sommer, two other Rangers and two Canadian nationals stormed the building with rifles, body armor, and grenades, before making off with $54,011 just two-and-a-half minutes after entering the bank.
Sommer was apprehended after a witness identified the getaway car’s license plate, which was then traced to Fort Lewis — now Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He was slapped with a 24-year sentence in 2008 for his role in the robbery, which he claimed during sentencing was a form of protest against war crimes overseas.
That sentence, however, ballooned to 44 years in 2010, when, while imprisoned, Sommer reportedly tried to use a shank to kill a co-defendant in his case. That same month, Sommer solicited a hitman for $20,000 to murder the federal prosecutor in his case. Additional prison time was ordered when the hitman turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.
Now 36, Sommer is petitioning U.S. District Judge James Robart for a reduced sentence that would end, at the latest, in 2028, more than 20 years ahead of his originally scheduled release, according to a Seattle Times report.
Sommer’s argument for a reduced sentence, however, was not submitted merely on the grounds of good behavior.
In a 45-page motion filed in June by the former Ranger, Sommer contested that his actions as a 20-year-old were orchestrated by a brain that, in the average male, “does not fully develop until 25,” he wrote. The motion cited science Sommer says was not available at the time of his sentencing.
“While his conduct was extremely serious, his sentence overstates his offense conduct,” Sommer wrote, using the third person. “Sommer’s extraordinary rehabilitation … provides strong support for his release, decreasing his likelihood of reoffending or posing a danger to the community.”
In addition to a traumatic childhood and heroin addiction — he has admitted to using drugs behind bars, the Seattle Times report said — Sommer, who says he’s now sober and mentoring other inmates, pointed toward combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, including claims that he was involved in the rescue mission of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, as a catalyst for his actions.
“For months, Sommer had lived, eaten and trained” with SEALs, he wrote. “The loss of friends and acquaintances, along with his adverse childhood experiences, resulted in Sommer developing severe Post-traumatic stress disorder, which Sommer still deals with today.”
Accompanying the motion were 200 pages of endorsements from other inmates, guards and program managers who have crossed paths with Sommer during his incarceration, the Seattle Times reported.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, have been less than keen to believe the presented argument of neurological evolution.
“His criminal conduct was serious, violent, and persisted over the course of years,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Teal Luthy Miller said in the Seattle Times report. “He led a team of armed bank robbers and possessed illegal destructive devices. Then, after he fled to Canada and was eventually extradited, he assaulted a co-defendant in prison.”
Judge Robart is reportedly considering allowing Sommer to present oral arguments.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.