June 24, 2009 in City

Separate OxyContin cases send two men to prison

Neither had adult record before pharmacy robberies
Meghann M. Cuniff meghannc@spokesman.com, (509) 459-5534

At a glance

Serial pharmacy robber Edward A. Saner was sentenced to 15 months in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to three counts of second-degree robbery last month. A hearing is scheduled July 2 to determine if he’ll be credited for about six months he spent in a home monitoring program in Tacoma. Saner is scheduled to plead guilty to a robbery charge in Kootenai County Thursday for a robbery at a Hayden Rite Aid last August.

Joshua M. Warren, 18, was sentenced to 31 months in prison for charges of first-degree robbery and drug possession in connection with a Jan. 19 holdup at Walgreens, 12312 E. Sprague Ave. A boy also has been sentenced in juvenile court for the crime, and a 21-year-old man who was outside the store was acquitted of robbery charges by a jury in April.

His troubles started with family.

But Edward A. Saner’s problems spiraled from typical to debilitating as he dabbled more in OxyContin, leading to a string of pharmacy robberies last summer, his lawyer said.

“When I was under the influence of the drug, it’s just really that I wasn’t myself,” Saner, a 24-year-old with no prior criminal record, said Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court. “Consequence wasn’t something that was relevant to me at that time.”

Saner was sentenced to 15 months in prison by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno on Tuesday after pleading guilty to three counts of second-degree robbery in a deal approved last month.

He was the second pharmacy robber sentenced to prison by Moreno that day.

Joshua M. Warren, 18, will serve 31 months for a January robbery at a Spokane Valley Walgreens. He also was sentenced Tuesday.

Other than Warren’s conviction for a minor crime as a juvenile, neither had criminal records prior to their OxyContin crimes, which police say is common in the robbery epidemic that’s plagued Spokane.

Saner was arrested on suspicion of six pharmacy robberies in Spokane last summer and faces an additional robbery charge in Idaho. He was booked into jail after his sentencing.

“It just seems so bold for someone who’s never been in trouble before,” Moreno said.

Saner gave police information that helped with other arrests, leading to a plea deal that netted him just 15 months for three counts of second-degree robbery, compared to 31 months for Warren on charges of first-degree robbery and drug possession stemming from one incident.

Warren, who was represented by public defender John Nollette, will be on probation for 18 months; Saner got 36 months.

The lack of criminal record for most of the young men arrested for robbing pharmacies of OxyContin in the last year illustrates the pull of the prescription drug, said Saner’s lawyer, Tracy Collins.

“They end up doing something stupid because they’re addicted,” Collins said.

Saner lettered in track and football in high school, his father said, and was on the dean’s list at Pierce College in California before transferring to Eastern Washington University as a junior. He lived in Cheney, then moved in with his Spokane girlfriend, Collins said.

Around that time, Saner’s family life turned difficult. His father was diagnosed with a terminal illness, his brother was injured in the Iraq war and his grandmother died. “At the time, we did not realize the great impact this was having on Edward,” his father, Ralph Saner, told the court.

Soon, he was addicted to OxyContin, injecting it into his veins for a more intense high and robbing pharmacies for a quick supply, Collins said.

Saner told Moreno his drug use started as recreational and grew into an addiction, prompting his “crazy idea of how to get more.”

“I’m just trying to get my life back on track,” he said.

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