Heroes suffer from brave, but naive act

Published 5:33 am Saturday, February 14, 2004

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- When two patrons of the Cottage Tavern stepped in to help another man who was being beaten by a bat, they risked their lives. They lived, but will probably feel pain the rest of their lives.
Matthew Kiggins, 26, of Dowagiac and Jeffrey Collett, 32, of Decatur, told Judge Michael E. Dodge in Circuit Court Friday morning of their still unhealed injuries.
On Aug. 14, 2003, the two were at the Cottage Tavern on M-51 South in Pokagon Township, when three men came in with the intent of robbery, knowing extra cash would be on hand to cash patrons' payroll checks, said Prosecuting Attorney Victor A. Fitz.
The defendant who was carrying a gun, Christopher Alan Brinkley, 26, of Niles, was sentenced by Dodge on 10 counts Friday.
When Derrick Deals began hitting a patron with a baseball bat, Kiggins and Collett entered in and came to the rescue. A third defendant was Herbert Ford, said Fitz, but "Brinkley was the ringleader."
Collett's spine was fractured and had to have blood removed from his lungs after being air lifted to Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo. Kiggins was taken by ambulance for treatment.
Brinkley hung his head down as the two men made victim statements to the court.
Nearly breaking down, Collett said, "It's hard. I almost died. I was in a body cast for three months. My back is always going to hurt."
Kiggins pulled up his coat sleeve to show what he called permanent scars. He added he is always going have trouble with his arm, which was fractured.
The sentence guideline was for 171 to 285 months, with one juvenile conviction and two misdmeanors as an adult. "You could have killed either one easily," said Dodge. "Also, other patrons could have been killed."
A plea accepted on Jan. 12 brought Brinkley's prison sentence to 16 years to 30 years, with credit for 154 days, for each of eight counts which included assault with intent to murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, assault while armed and assault with robbery while armed, to run concurrently, starting with an additional two years for two counts of firearm charges, to be served before the 16.
He is to pay $60 court assessment for each count and $60 Crime Victim fee. Restitution is reserved when the Victim Impact Statements are received.