Peter Harkins, 41, of Phoenixville said he never used a gun during his tri-county robbing spree, but instead used objects, including a banana, to fool workers. He was able to strike three consecutive days last fall with the same tactics.
On Oct. 29, he stole $200 at a Pizza Hut in Phoenixville, Chester County by pointing his covered hand at an employee. The next day he struck at a Domino’s Pizza in Willow Grove, Montgomery County with a similar strategy getting away with close to $100.
By Oct. 31, Harkins robbed the Santander Bank on 1425 Street Road and demanded cash, again pointing something that resembled a gun to the employee. Harkins made headlines after that robbery for his butt crack showing on surveillance video as he fled the bank.
A week later Harkins turned himself in and told police he used the money to buy drugs. He blamed his crimes on substance abuse and told Judge Jeffrey Finley he began going to Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with his father at age 3.
“When I put alcohol or a drug in my body, this is what happens,” Harkins said. “It was three days, just a really bad binge.”
He told Finley he was sober for years and was working a good job until he relapsed, something defense attorney William E. Moore attempted to argue.
“Robbery is a violent act, but he is not a violent person,” Moore said. “That’s why he used a banana and a ratchet handle.”
This is Harkins second time sent to state prison for robbery, a factor Deputy District Attorney Antonetta Stancu explained. In 2006, he received a one- to two-year sentence for two robberies in Montgomery County.
Stancu said despite the lack of weapon the victims, “who were people just doing their jobs,” had no idea whether Harkins had a gun or not.
Finley agreed, and said criminal defendants are required to serve, “You do it again, and the punishment should be greater.”
Although Harkins’ family and friends filled one side of the courtroom, no one ever reached out to him during his downward spiral, the judge expressed.
Harkins will serve concurrent sentences of five to 12 years for each robbery, and have no contact with his victims. Judge Finley recommended he be imprisoned in a therapeutic community to help treat his addiction issues.
“I’m not judging you as a bad or evil person,” Finley said, “but you can be, and you have been, a danger to the community.”