Pubdate: Wed, 11 Oct 2006
Source: Press Journal  (Vero Beach, FL)
Copyright: 2006, The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Derek Simmonsen


FORT PIERCE - A man accused of robbing pharmacies to feed an 
OxyContin addiction after Dr. Ascuncion Luyao was arrested has agreed 
to a plea deal to resolve his four-year-old cases.

Robert Bittle, 39, pleaded no contest to trafficking in OxyContin, 
robbery and three counts of robbery with a deadly weapon. He was 
sentenced today by Circuit Judge Gary Sweet under the plea agreement 
to 20 years in prison, but the sentence was suspended as long as he 
successfully completes two years of house arrest and 10 years of probation.

If he fails any conditions, he will automatically head to prison. He 
still faces similar charges in Palm Beach County and those must be 
resolved before his sentence will begin.

Testifying on his behalf was Assistant State Attorney Lynn Park, who 
said he was "extremely cooperative" in testifying during the trial of 
Coleman Fred Sule. Sule was found guilty in April of first-degree 
murder in the death of a Port St. Lucie woman and guilty of 
solicitation to commit murder in a plot to frame and kill a witness.

Bittle was one of two inmates who testified about Sule's jailhouse 
plot and he also told authorities about an escape attempt he said 
Sule had planned. Park said she did not believe Bittle posed any 
danger to the community, especially in light of serious medical 
problems he faces.

He suffers from several ailments, including hydrocephalus, also known 
as water on the brain, and was legitimately prescribed painkillers in 
prison before seeking Luyao's care upon his release. After she was 
arrested in the spring of 2002, police linked Bittle to eight 
pharmacy robberies in which he allegedly stole roughly 8,000 pills.

Some of them he used and others he sold to a dealer to feed his 
OxyContin addiction, police said. Luyao was convicted in March of 
racketeering and oxycodone trafficking charges and sentenced to 50 
years in prison.
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