Canniff jailed ‘for dance with the devil’Published 12:55pm Thursday, January 10, 2013
CASSOPOLIS — Jail time is the price a Dowagiac man must pay for his self-described “dance with the devil in the pale moonlight” last June outside a residence in Wayne Township.
Robert Allan Canniff, 35, was convicted on Tuesday by a six-person jury in Fourth District Court for the crimes of malicious destruction of a building $200-$1,000 and assault and battery which occurred on the evening of June 7 at 25316 70th St.
Cass County Assistant Prosecutor Melissa Sytsma provided jurors with testimony from two assault victims which established that on the date in question, two friends, Roger Syx III and Joseph Gant, were enjoying a peaceful summer evening at Gant’s residence. Children were also present.
Things turned violent when a highly intoxicated Canniff showed up at the house. Canniff brought in tow a drinking partner, Shawn Green. Gant explained to the jury that he went outside to speak with Canniff because he recognized Canniff was drunk. It was ultimately established at trial that the defendant blew a .20 on a preliminary breath alcohol test.
The conversation between Canniff and Gant started off as friendly banter. But it quickly turned adversarial as Canniff began to express anger about a problem he had with Gant’s father. Canniff then borrowed a phrase from Jack Nicholson’s Joker character in an old Batman movie, and asked Gant and Syx if they wanted to “dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.”
Shortly afterward, Canniff punched Syx in the face. Canniff then grabbed Gant by the shoulders and pushed him against the residence, tearing Gant’s shirt in the process.
Gant testified he was concerned about the children and took them to safety inside of the residence. After Syx returned to the residence, the door to the house was double-locked by a dead bolt and a chain lock. But Canniff approached the Gant residence and proceeded to beat and kick the front door, trying to gain entry. In a 911 recording presented at trial, the jury heard a concerned Gant telling the children to stay put and stay away from the windows.
Photographs introduced showed foot marks on the outside door and extensive damage to the door frame — which was also split the length of the door.
Cass County Sheriff’s Deputies Paul McGowan and Tim Schuur told the jury that, when they arrived at the Gant residence, an intoxicated Canniff reported that a shooting occurred and that Green was shot in the face.
Deputies quickly found that claim to be unfounded.
The jury listened to testimony and arguments until late afternoon. Jurors returned their guilty verdicts at approximately 5:45 p.m. A not-guilty verdict was returned on a second charge of assault and battery.
Malicious destruction of a building $200-$1,000 is a one-year misdemeanor.
Assault and battery is a 93-day misdemeanor.
Following the guilty verdict, Fourth District Court Judge Stacey Rentfrow sentenced Canniff to 20 days in jail, nine months probation and ordered the defendant to pay fines, costs and restitution and to participate in anger management and undergo an alcohol assessment.
Additionally, Canniff’s failure to comply with these court orders will result in 40 days additional jail time.