The courtroom was hushed as Anthony Michael Cordaro told Criminal Court Judge David Patterson that a decade of addiction to the painkiller oxycodone led to his decision to hold up a Crossville pharmacy to get his hands on the drug his body craved.
"I can't get it back," Cordaro, 25, told the court, referring to the July 2010 robbery of the Rite Aid Pharmacy on N. Main St. "I have to pay for it now."
Patterson agreed, and following a sentencing hearing earlier this month, the judge sentenced Cordaro to three years in prison to be served at 30 percent as a range 1 offender. Cordaro is set to go on trial Aug. 7 for attempting to rob the Kingston Rite Aid in June of last year. He faces a minimum of eight years in connection with that robbery try.
In a scenario that is becoming all too common in courtrooms, State Probation Officer Mark Ledbetter testified that Cordaro had no prior criminal record when he held up the Crossville Rite Aid and made off with over $8,000 worth of Oxycontin pills.
About ten years earlier, Cordaro was involved in a motorcycle crash that left him with various injuries that required treatment that included painkillers. He became addicted and starting hanging with the wrong crowd so he could feed his habit.
As a result, Cordaro said, he lost his wife, his home and his job. Realizing that those around him were either dying or going to prison, Cordaro testified he relocated to Crossville from Massachusetts to get away from the drugs, but he only stayed away a few days.
About two weeks after moving here, Cordaro walked into the Main St. drug store, wrapped in gauze to hide his face, and, in a note, demanded Oxycontin. He was not armed, but the pregnant pharmacist on duty didn't know that. She handed over a quantity of drugs and Cordaro fled. He was not apprehended until some four months later when Crossville police were able to trace the getaway car to a family member.
"I know it was wrong and I am sorry," Cordaro said. More than once he apologized for scaring the pharmacist on duty that day.
After making bond and staying out of trouble for the next half year, Cordaro gave into his drug cravings again, and this time tried to rob the Kingston pharmacy. He was taken into custody at the counter.
After that arrest, Cordaro made the decision to go "cold turkey" to get off the drugs. The defendant said he tried attending meetings, but he didn't get the help there that he needed. In the end, he locked himself in his room for two weeks and with help from his mother, got off the painkiller. He has stayed clean since for the past ten months.
Ledbetter confirmed that when he tested Cordaro prior to the sentencing hearing, there was no trace of prescription or non-prescribed medication in the defendant's body.
Cordaro got a job in the heating and air industry and worked up to his April court appearance. He quit that week because he thought he was going to jail at that time, and was surprised that he was allowed to remain on bond pending the May 11 sentencing hearing.
Investigators have said that Cordaro was one of the most cooperative and honest suspects with which they have dealt. When confronted, Cordaro gave a full confession and has appeared for every hearing.
Still, Patterson was faced with the perception problem that giving Cordaro a split sentence or a suspended sentence would leave in the community.
"The victim was traumatized," Patterson noted. "To give less than the maximum sentence might serve as an invitation to others." He then sentenced Cordaro to three years. He will get credit for time already served. Cordaro was immediately taken into custody.