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Dave Kolpack, Associated Press Writer, Published October 16 2010

Fargo man gets 5-year sentence for robbery

A judge sentenced a 20-year-old bank robber to just over five years in prison Friday, saying he could have sentenced him to more time but felt the man has a chance to turn his life around.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson said he could have sentenced Matthew Becker of Fargo to 10 years in prison for holding up the West Fargo Town and Country Credit Union in August 2009 but that he decided to give Becker the term recommended by prosecutors because of Becker’s troubled upbringing and potential to reform.

Becker brandished a weapon during the holdup and made off with $9,000. Authorities say he scaled a 6-foot cedar fence outside the bank after the robbery and fled into a residential area. He was arrested a day later.

Public defender Richard Henderson called it a serious crime but said Becker has “a pile of problems that are not any of his own making.” Becker was born with fetal alcohol and drug syndrome and was abandoned as a child. He has a history of chemical addiction and mental health issues, Henderson said.

Henderson asked for a sentence of three to four years in prison.

Prosecutor Keith Reisenauer said Becker devastated the lives of several bank employees, at least four of whom attended the sentencing hearing. Some of them have been traumatized to the point where “for a lack of a better term, they’re afraid of their own shadow,” Reisenauer said.

Becker tearfully apologized to the victims for his actions.

“I hope that someday you will find it in your heart to forgive me,” he said.

Erickson wondered out loud if federal sentencing guidelines for armed robbery may be too lenient because of the number of lives it endangers.

He said the crime also traumatizes innocent people, like the bank tellers.

“They do not anticipate that some knucklehead is going to walk in, brandish a weapon at them and threaten them,” he said.