« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Dave Kolpack, Published October 03 2009

Credit union robbery blamed on Iraq service

Lawyers for a man convicted of robbing a Fargo credit union say their client should get a break on prison time because he has a mental disorder caused by military service in Iraq. Federal prosecutors say that’s no reason to reduce his sentence.

Denver Lee Tergesen, 25, is charged with holding up the First Community Credit Union at gunpoint in December. He took nearly $10,000 and was driving a stolen car when arrested in Detroit Lakes, Minn., according to authorities and court records.

Public defenders believe Tergesen suffers from a gambling addiction that’s a symptom of chronic post traumatic stress disorder. Tergesen’s 14 months of combat duty in Iraq included a firefight and mortar attack, his lawyers said in court documents filed this week.

“There is strong evidence in this case that Mr. Tergesen committed this offense while acting under the influence of a mental disorder resulting from his military service,” defense attorneys said. “Before his deployment, he demonstrated a strong character and potential for success in life.”

Tergesen became withdrawn and moody when he returned from Iraq and spent all of his time gambling on the Internet, his attorneys said.

Federal sentencing guidelines call for a prison term between 46 and 57 months. Defense attorneys are asking for between 24 and 36 months. Sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Prosecutors said in court documents filed Friday that mental and emotional conditions may be considered for conditions of release but are “not ordinarily relevant” in sentencing.

“The defendant appears to claim that due to this post traumatic stress disorder he has become addicted to gambling and this somehow caused him to commit a bank robbery,” prosecutors said in court documents. “There is no such causal connection.”

Tergesen did not mention a gambling addiction when he was arrested and told police he needed the money for a ski trip to Big Sky, Mont., prosecutors said.

U.S. attorneys also want the judge to order Tergesen to pay back more than $719 that has not been recovered from the robbery and pay $50 to a teller who ruined some clothing while following Tergesen out of the bank.

Tergesen’s attorneys said their client has admitted responsibility for his actions and begun an addiction-based treatment program.

“Mr. Tergesen understands that bank robbery is a serious offense,” they said. “He knows that he traumatized an innocent bank teller.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Reisenauer said he had no further comment beyond court documents. Jana Miner, acting public defender for North Dakota and South Dakota, had no comment.