Local man receives suspended sentence

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Joshua Smith, right,and his lawyer, Attorney Michael Zaino, listen to Judge Charles Temple pronounce Smith's sentences -- all of which were suspended in their entirety -- stemming from his February 2017 knife rampage in Nashua. Most of the agreement was sealed by the judge.

NASHUA – Hudson resident Joshua Smith stood before a Superior Court judge Wednesday and entered guilty pleas to four felony charges, including one count of armed robbery, all stemming from the 2017 rampage in which he robbed a person and threatened three others with a knife.

Add to that the fact that Smith was on parole at the time – having been convicted of armed robbery in 2013 – and it seemed almost certain he would leave Wednesday’s hearing in shackles, headed for the New Hampshire State Prison.

But for reasons known only to Smith, his attorney, the prosecutor and Judge Charles Temple, Smith’s crimes drew only a series of suspended prison and jail sentences, prompting Temple to remind Smith, “You got a huge opportunity here.”

Beyond that, the documents detailing the circumstances of the unusual plea agreement remain unavailable to the public, having been ordered sealed by Temple at the request of the prosecutor, Assistant County Attorney Cassie Devine, and Smith’s lawyer, Michael Zaino.

In all, Smith, 33, whose last known address is Five Dana Court, Apt. 22, entered guilty pleas Wednesday to five charges – one count each of armed robbery, a Class A felony, and felon in possession of a deadly weapon, Class B felonies; two counts of criminal threatening, Class B felonies; and one count of simple assault, a Class A misdemeanor.

Smith was sentenced to five to 10 years in State Prison, all suspended for two years, on the armed robbery charge; and three and a half to seven years in prison, all suspended for two years, on each of the two criminal threatening charges and the felon in possession charge.

He was sentenced to 12 months in Valley Street jail, all suspended for three years, on the simple assault charge.

Devine, in speaking to Smith’s criminal history and any victim input, said only that he has “a significant record” that includes the 2013 armed robbery conviction.

She said she spoke with the three people Smith threatened or attacked during the February 2017 rampage, and that all “are in agreement” with the terms of the plea deal.

According to his history and case files, Smith already had a string of arrests, mostly for burglary, theft and robbery, when he embarked on the spree late the night of Feb. 11, 2017.

Police said at the time that officers were called around 10 p.m. to the area of the Dollar Tree store at 300 Main St. by someone who said they were threatened by a man with a knife.

Officers learned that the suspect, later identified as Smith, punched the victim, then demanded he “roll his pockets,” police said. Moments later, Smith attacked another man, holding a knife to his neck as the man sat in his vehicle.

Smith then drove off, arriving minutes later at a car wash on Daniel Webster Highway, police said. There, he brandished a knife and “walked aggressively toward” a man, but stopped before reaching him, according to police.

Devine said in court Wednesday that Smith veered away from the man after realizing he was carrying a firearm.

Smith’s 2013 armed robbery conviction, meanwhile, stemmed from his role in the April 2012 robbery of an East Hollis Street coffee shop. He and another man stole about $200, police said at the time.

On Wednesday, Temple told Smith that he would be “doing a significant stretch of prison time” if not for the circumstances laid out in the sealed documents.

“So for the reasons provided me by the state and attorney Zaino, I’m going to accept this agreement,” Temple said.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.