A man who robbed several drug stores said Monday that opioids had "controlled my life." Terry Hassler's crime spree across the Southeast also led to a seven-year federal prison sentence followed by five years of probation.
He appeared in Chattanooga Federal Court before Judge Sandy Mattice.
Hassler robbed several pharmacies in late May and early June of 2018 and was charged with aggravated robbery in both Hamilton and Bradley counties as well as other jurisdictions.
Erin Rust, Hassler’s attorney, filed a motion for downward variance on the sentencing, emphasizing her client’s previously spotless record and his many letters of support from different members of the community. She hoped to decrease Hassler’s sentence and eliminate the 28 months he would have to serve for brandishing a firearm during the robbery.
Judge Mattice seemed to agree, saying, “Mr. Hassler is a very meek individual, very different from people who usually commit these crimes.”
Attorney Rust also placed emphasis on the remorse shown by Hassler, and even prosecutor Scott Winne appeared to take note of this as well. In the prosecution’s eyes, this remorse was a point in Hassler’s favor, with prosecutor Winne saying “A lot of people come up here and say ‘I’m just an addict.’ Well, this guy really is just an addict. He wasn’t trying to distribute, he was just trying to feed his addiction.”
Judge Mattice continued by painting a more positive picture of Hassler’s character, saying, “He describes his arrest as a blessing…he has a good chance at rehabilitation,” finishing his monologue by admitting, “You know what, I think 84 months is enough in this case.”
Before hearing his sentence, Hassler was given an opportunity to speak. With a quivering voice, he quietly spoke to the judge, prosecution, and his family in attendance, saying, “I am very sorry for my actions and I’d like to ask my family for forgiveness in court. This addiction controlled my life……..and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to rebuild the relationships I have destroyed.”
In addition to the prison time, Hassler is required to undergo 500 hours of substance abuse treatment and a mental health evaluation. Once on probation, Hassler is required to undergo periodic drug tests and must be involved in a mental health program.
One of his holdups was at a CVS Pharmacy on Keith Street in Cleveland last June 8. Hassler handed a note to a pharmacy employee and directed that she fill a bag with various oxycontins. She complied. However, she refused when he told her to return the note. Hassler then pulled a Glock handgun and she gave the note back.
Police arrived at the CVS about the time Hassler was leaving. There was a short car pursuit, then he stopped. He gave confessions to the robberies.
That ended a string of 11 holdups in several states by the Crossville, Tn. man.
In one in Bristol, Va., he was disguised from head to toe, including wearing "an old man's mask." He got away with thousands of dollars in medication in that robbery alone.
Before the sentencing had ended, attorney Rust requested a motion for his sentences in federal and state courts to be served concurrently, but it was denied. Because Hassler had committed robberies in multiple counties, he also faces charges in Bradley County after this sentencing.
Judge Mattice ended the sentencing by looking at the handcuffed Hassler and saying, “Mr. Hassler, good luck to you.”