A Beltsville man who pleaded guilty in February to a bank robbery and two handgun charges was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court, in Greenbelt, to slightly more than 18 years in prison.
Samuel Lewis, 44, of the 10600 block of Hockberry Way, briefly addressed U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow at his sentencing Tuesday morning to apologize for his actions and shed some light on what he called his motivation for committing at least seven bank robberies in Montgomery County from Oct. 14, 2010, to Sept. 2, 2011.
“I had a lot of things on my mind; things I had to deal with that I didn’t deal with appropriately,” Lewis told Chasanow, explaining that he was driven to rob banks due to his drug addiction and a need to support his daughter. “... I can’t say much; actions speak for themselves, but I apologize.”
Police in Montgomery County as well as Alexandria and Arlington, in Virginia, believe Lewis was responsible for as many as 23 bank robberies — 13 in Montgomery County and 10 in Virginia — from July 2, 2010, until shortly before his arrest on Sept. 16, 2011.
Lewis originally was charged with seven counts each of armed robbery and the use of a handgun in Montgomery County Circuit Court after his arrest but those charges were dropped Oct. 21 in favor of a single charge of bank robbery and the two handgun charges in U.S. District Court, filed Oct. 18, according to county and federal court documents.
As part of his plea agreement, which was filed Feb. 17 in federal court, Lewis and his defense attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender John C. Chamble, agreed to allow Chasanow to consider seven of the Montgomery County robberies at Lewis’ sentencing.
“The court has seen a lot of bank robbers, but I would agree that this is not the worst of the worst,” Chamble told Chasanow at sentencing. “Yes, he must be punished but we are asking the court to punish him in a way that he can be rehabilitated ... I think the focus should be how to return this man to the community.”
Chasanow acknowledged Chamble’s and Lewis’ claims that Lewis was ready to confront his substance abuse problem with enrollment in a mental health program during his prison sentence, but ultimately imposed a sentence of 219 months, higher than the 16 years requested by Chamble.
“This was a spree that would apparently have continued until Mr. Lewis was caught,” Chasanow said in handing down the sentence. “There is no amount of financial need that would justify this kind of conduct.”
Chasanow also ordered Lewis to forfeit the firearm he used in all seven of the robberies as well as $58,270 seized in his home upon his arrest. Finally, Lewis was ordered to pay $109,524 in restitution to the seven banks listed in his plea agreement as part of his sentence.
Chamble declined to comment on the sentence following the hearing Tuesday. As part of his plea agreement, Lewis waived his right to appeal any sentence lower than 327 months.
Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. district attorney for the District of Maryland, was not immediately available to comment on Chasanow’s sentence as of Tuesday afternoon, but the 219-month sentence was at the top of the guidelines outlined in Lewis’ plea agreement, said Marcia Murphy, a U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman.
“That’s what we requested,” Murphy said of the prosecutors’ recommendation for Lewis’ sentence.