Joseph Smith called his life a "nightmare that just won't seem to quit," and it's likely no one in the courtroom disagreed.
Smith's mental and emotional problems began when he was raped by an older cousin at age 6. Later, in an adult relationship, he learned that his partner had been molesting children and had given him HIV. There was an older half-brother who killed himself, and a friend who was murdered.
His problems continued Wednesday when a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge sentenced him to four to eight years in prison for a one-day crime spree in which he mugged and robbed a 76-year-old man and a Temple University student.
Smith, 32, of West Oak Lane, broke down and loudly wept several times during his sentencing hearing, which included a video of his violent attack on Henderson Odom.
Smith pleaded for forgiveness from his victims before Judge Giovanni O. Campbell sentenced him.
"You won't have to live in fear of me anymore," Smith said, "because I'm a changed person."
Smith, who pleaded guilty to both assaults, was arrested Sept. 18, 2013, after he punched Temple freshman Alexa Brand, 18, in the face two times outside her dorm at Broad and Norris Streets about 7:20 p.m. and ran off with her gym bag.
Earlier, in an attack captured by a video camera inside a service station four blocks north of Temple, Smith rushed Odom, who had just bought lottery tickets, punched him in the head, and knocked him to the floor. He then kicked and punched him about the head and face before grabbing Odom's $13 in lottery tickets and $50 cash, and running out the door.
Odom, who told the court Wednesday that he has had eye problems since the attack, broke down when he said: "Every time I see those pictures, it just kills me. I've never been mugged before in my life."
Defense attorney Micah Shender cited Smith's long history of mental illness, adding that he had been released from a mental-health facility just five days before the muggings.
"Mr. Smith is a human being in addition to committing these crimes," she said. "When he's on medication and is coherent, he's a very caring individual."