BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge called a Rockport man “a pharmacist’s worst nightmare” in sentencing him Wednesday to 11 years and nine months in prison for the armed robbery of a Millinocket pharmacy last summer.
Nicholas Skoby, 30, pleaded guilty in February to two counts: interference with commerce by robbery and using, carrying or brandishing a firearm in connection with a crime of violence.
In addition to prison time, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced Skoby to five years of supervised release. Woodcock also ordered Skoby to pay $250 in restitution to Rite Aid, its cost for the drugs he stole.
“I can tell you, Mr. Skoby, unequivocally that you are a pharmacist’s worst nightmare,” Woodcock told the defendant just before he imposed the sentence. “Pharmacists do important, vital jobs. It takes years of dedication and education and attention to detail to perform daily this vital service to the public.
“But they do so at a risk,” the judge continued. “That risk is someone like you. Someone addicted to the drugs they are guardians of. Someone willing to use violence to feed an addiction.”
Members of Skoby’s family sat behind him weeping as Woodcock spoke.
Skoby demanded cash and pills from a pharmacist at Rite Aid on Aug. 29, showing the butt of a gun stuck in the waistband of his pants. He then led police on a high-speed chase, according to the prosecution version of events to which he pleaded guilty.
He left the store with 142 oxycodone pills, 160 tablets of Ritalin and $586 in cash, according to court documents.
The judge on Wednesday ordered Skoby to forfeit the 9 mm handgun seized when he was arrested less than 40 minutes after the robbery.
Woodcock told Skoby he was imposing the maximum sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines because his “overwhelming obligation” was to protect victims, such as the pharmacist who was working the day of the robbery, from criminals.
The pharmacist told Woodcock that she has been exhausted, angry and suspicious of strangers since the robbery. The woman said she is afraid in her workplace and her family is afraid for her to go to work.
“He didn’t just rob me, he terrorized me,” the emotional pharmacist told Woodcock. “He told me I was going to die over and over again and counted down the seconds.”
Skoby apologized to the woman and to the community of Millinocket when he addressed the court.
“I am so, so sorry,” he said directly to his victim. “I wish I could take that day back. That was not me.”
The defendant told Woodcock he had been sober and on medication for mental health problems during the two years before the robbery. Skoby said that he led Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings in the Rockland area, including at the Knox County Jail.
Skoby told police after his arrest that he was high on alcohol, marijuana, crack cocaine and bath salts at the time of the robbery. He also has admitted to getting his girlfriend to try to smuggle suboxone strips into the Penobscot County Jail after he was indicted for the robbery.
He faced up to 30 years in prison on the robbery charge. Skoby also faced a mandatory additional seven years for showing the gun.
Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, Skoby faced between three years and 10 months and four years and nine months in federal prison for the robbery. Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Lowell, who prosecuted the case, urged Woodcock to impose the maximum sentence.
Skoby’s attorney, Robert M. Napolitano of Portland, sought a lesser sentence.
Even though he pleaded guilty to the charges, his sentence was not reduced because of the smuggling incident at the jail, the judge said. If Skoby had not persuaded his girlfriend to bring him drugs, his prison term would have been nine years and 11 months even if the judge had imposed the maximum sentence under the guidelines.