Cass jury convicts Niles man in five minutes

Published 2:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

By Staff
CASSOPOLIS - Despite claims that "it wasn't me" by the defendant, it took a Cass County jury less than five minutes to convict a Niles man of drunk driving and driving while license suspended.
Cass County Deputies Paul McGowan and Cory Collins testified at trial that the defendant, Eugene Bryant, was seen getting out of the driver's seat of his Bronco in the middle of Fox Road at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 28, 2004.
The lights were off and the full-sized SUV was parking at an angle in the middle of the 55-mph roadway.
Bryant claimed he wasn't the driver. Two car occupants, Karen Thermon and Sherman Smith, claimed Bryant wasn't the driver.
They all claimed that the female had driven to the spot of the stop, then exited the vehicle to go to the bathroom in a cornfield.
But the jury didn't buy it.
Their deliberations began shortly before 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15.
The 12-person jury then rang the buzzer few minutes later and returned an "as charged" guilty verdict.
Bryant had also been convicted of drunk driving in 1999 and in 2002.
Those offenses took place in Berrien and Cass counties.
Testimony indicated that the trio had been drinking in Marcellus for a significant portion of the evening and were heading back to Niles at the time of the alleged bathroom break.
Prosecutor Victor Fitz tried the case for the citizens of Cass County.
Bryant is expected to be sentenced on Oct. 22 as a third-offense drunk driver and faces up to five years in prison as well as fines, costs and additional license sanctions.