A Crossville man was sentenced to serve seven years in federal prison May 20 for robbing several drug stores in the Southeast last year after reaching a plea deal in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Terry Hassler of Crossville pleaded guilty on two counts: robbery affecting interstate commerce, which carries a sentence of imprisonment up to 20 years, supervised release for up to three years, a fine up to $250,000, any lawful restitution and a $100 special assessment; and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, which carries a sentence of imprisonment for a term no less than seven years up to life, which must run consecutive to any term of imprisonment, supervised release for up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, any lawful restitution and a $100 special assessment.

In all, Hassler was sentenced to serve seven years, followed by supervised probation for five years. Other conditions include that Hassler take all prescribed medication, submit to a mental health evaluation, receive 500 hours of substance abuse treatment and pay a special assessment fine of $200. 

The sentence was ordered by Judge Harry S. Mattice Jr., United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Hassler said it was an opioid drug addiction that led him to commit the drug store robberies last year.

As reported in an article in the Chattanoogan, Hassler testified opioids “controlled my life.”

Prior to his sentencing, Hassler was given the chance to address the court.

Hassler said, “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.”

Erin Rust, Hassler’s attorney, filed a motion for downward variance on the sentencing, emphasizing Hassler’s previously clean record and many letters of support from various members of the community. Rust hoped to decrease Hassler’s sentence and eliminate the 28 months to serve for brandishing a firearm during the robbery.

Attorney Rust also emphasized the remorse shown by Hassler. Prosecutor Scott Winne agreed and said, “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 agreed and said, “He describes his arrest as a blessing … he has a good chance at rehabilitation … You know what, I think 84 months is enough in this case.”

Hassler’s last holdup was at a CVS Pharmacy on Keith St. in Cleveland last June 8. Hassler handed a note to a pharmacy employee and directed her to fill a bag with various Oxycontin drugs. She complied. Hassler told her to return the note and when she refused he pulled a Glock handgun. She then returned the note.

Police arrived at the CVS as Hassler was leaving. There was a short car pursuit, Hassler stopped and later confessed to the robberies.

Hassler also faces charges in Bradley County.