Psychologist who practiced in east Idaho found guilty of raping patients at Air Force base
Published at | Updated at
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A psychologist who practiced for years in Chubbuck was found guilty of six felony sexual assault charges for luring victims of sexual assault into having sex with him, claiming it was part of their treatment for post-traumatic stress problems.
Dr. Heath Sommer was accused of mistreating patients and leaving them “even more traumatized” at Travis Air Force Base in California from 2010 to 2016, prosecutors said. He is looking at a possible prison sentence of 11 years and eight months.
The jury’s verdict came after six days of deliberation closing out a six-week jury trial, according to the Daily Republic.
Prosecutors detailed allegations against the clinical psychologist that he used a technique known as exposure therapy on his patients — inflicting the same sort of abuse that landed some of them in his office in the first place.
The Daily Republic reports the following:
One woman, a colonel, recalled Sommer telling her at their third session in 2014 that he was going to start using exposure therapy. He orchestrated moving their sessions off-base to his home, where he then told her he wanted to treat her by having her re-experience every facet of her sexual assault by three British soldiers.
Sommer had the officer repeatedly describe the details of her sexual assault she endured at a training facility in Afghanistan. She told him about the dirty facility and recalled the taste of partially cooked goat meat she had been served by Afghans before the assault, the investigator said. Sommer then got dirt out of his backyard and had the officer put it in her mouth and had her eat meat from leftover Chinese food out of his refrigerator.
That was followed by his recommending she have a “positive and loving” sexual experience, so he took her into the master bedroom of his home while his wife stayed in the kitchen. Then he put his hand over her mouth and had sex with her, according to the testimony. After that therapy session, in the next two months she had sex with Sommer nine more times at his home. The last time came after she spent the night at his house, sleeping with Sommer and his wife. When she woke up, he started to have sex with her before she told him to stop, then got up and left.
Sommer was the CEO for Seasons of Hope in Chubbuck until March 2013 when the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare alleged fraud against the facility and suspended Medicaid payments. Three months later, KPVI reported Seasons of Hope was cleared of the allegations, but the facility shut its doors.