A 26-year-old man was sentenced Thursday to 14 years, three months in prison for a spree of robberies that terrorized fast-food and convenience store clerks in Tacoma last fall.
Joshua Nitschke pleaded guilty in July to robbing 28 local businesses and trying to rob two others. Nitschke, who earned the nickname “the fast-food robber,” and his girlfriend said they committed the robberies to get money to feed their Oxycodone addictions.
They mostly targeted Subway sandwich shops and pizza parlors.
The girlfriend, Cassandra Koepke, pleaded guilty earlier this year to three counts of first-degree robbery and was sentenced to five years, eight months in prison.
Nitschke usually went in armed with a gun and demanded money while Koepke, a former Subway employee, waited behind the wheel of a getaway car. The gun turned out to be fake.
Pierce County deputy prosecutor Kawyne Lund asked that Nitschke be sentenced to 15 years in prison, which was above the high end of the standard range.
Lund argued before Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan that Nitschke terrorized dozens of people during his nearly month-long spree and a 15-year sentence would reflect “the serious amount of harm he did to the community.”
Still, Lund reduced her original request for 20 years after reading reports and letters attesting to Nitschke’s character.
The defendant’s attorney, Mary Treyz, told Hogan his client had never before been in trouble with the law until he became addicted to Oxycodone.
“This is a case that shows how horrible and invasive these prescription drugs can be,” said Treyz, who asked for a nine-year sentence, which would have been below the standard range. “They took a good young man with a bright future and ruined him.”
Nitschke’s parents also spoke on his behalf, saying they stood by their son despite his crimes and would be there to help him when he got out of prison.
Nitschke then was given a chance to speak. He apologized to his family and to all the people he robbed and frightened.
“I’m sorry I hurt and victimized everyone,” he said.
Nitschke told Hogan he is not the same person he was last year at this time, that he sobered up in jail awaiting the resolution of his case and now has an infant son he loves and worries about.
“I think I could still be a productive member of society when I get out,” he said.
Hogan got the last word.
The judge praised Nitschke for taking responsibility for his crime and noted his previously clean record, but she said she wasn’t inclined to give him a sentence below the standard range because of the number of robberies he committed.
“You put a lot of people in fear,” Hogan said. “You had a minimum of 30 victims.”