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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

March 4, 2011 at 1:38 PM

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'Drugstore Cowboy' author headed back to prison for robbery

Posted by John de Leon

-- From Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green:

James Fogle, who penned the book "Drugstore Cowboy" which was made into an acclaimed 1989 film, was sentenced Friday afternoon to 15 years and nine months in prison for holding up a Redmond pharmacy last May. Fogle had pleaded guilty last month to first-degree robbery.

For the ailing Fogle, 74, the prison term could be a life sentence.

Fogle and Shannon Benn, 45, walked into the Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy on Redmond Way around 9 p.m. May 25. Benn was armed with a handgun and Fogle had a BB gun, according to charging paperwork filed in King County Superior Court.

Fogle confronted an employee when she said the store was closing. He pulled up his shirt to display the BB gun tucked into his waistband, the paperwork stated. Benn then entered the store and confronted another female employee.

A third employee, who remained near the front of the store, triggered a silent alarm. She also managed to open the front door and ask a passer-by to call police.

The three employees were tied up. When Fogle walked out of the business, hauling a trash bag full of drugs, he was met by police with guns drawn. While police were arresting Fogle, a door to the pharmacy opened and Benn exited. He, too, was arrested.

Benn pleaded guilty to first-degree armed robbery in September and was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.

Fogle had already spent half his life in prison when he wrote the book "Drugstore Cowboy" based on his own history as one of a group of addicts who roamed the Pacific Northwest robbing pharmacies to get their fixes. Fogle was in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla in 1989 when Portland filmmaker Gus Van Sant took his tale and created a critically acclaimed movie starring Matt Dillon.

Fogle has averaged one criminal charge each year over the past decade.

In 2004, police found him sleeping in a Kent drugstore he had intended to burglarize. According to Kent police, Fogle had cut a hole in the store's roof, shinnied down with a rope and had filled paper bags with $10,000 worth of narcotics when he had a narcoleptic attack.

Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, said Fogle wasn't a candidate for life in prison under the state's "three strikes" law because many of his convictions were for burglary and drug possession, which are not "strikeable" offenses.

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