Prosecutor touts strong conviction rate

Published 9:35 am Saturday, December 4, 2004

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - After 18 months as Cass County prosecutor, "Our office continues to have a very strong conviction rate," Victor Fitz reported to the Board of Commissioners Thursday.
In felony jury trials, conducted primarily by himself and Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jason Ronning, "We've prevailed on 13 out of those 15 cases," Fitz said.
Coupled with the 100-percent conviction rate that finished 2003 after he started that May, their success rate remains over 90 percent, "which sends a message that if you commit a crime here in the county, you're going to get convicted," Fitz said.
Fitz characterized 2004 as a "busy trial year" against the backdrop of both state and national elections.
Another major case in the Dowagiac area was the Cottage armed robbery, in which two men were shot trying to thwart a holdup. "That resulted in convictions of all the culprits involved. They all received double-digit numbers in prison," Fitz noted.
In May a Niles man accused of running over Melissa Schrader, 20, of Granger, Ind., with his pickup truck as she walked along Kline Road at dusk on the evening of Sept. 6, 2003, with a friend, pleaded guilty as charged to both 15-year felonies "and is now being held accountable for his crimes."
Fitz said he was also "glad about the arson case where the animals were shot and burned. The defendant in that case recently pleaded guilty as charged to all counts with the exception of two minor offenses that were dismissed - eight of the 10 counts brought against him."
Fitz is also "very pleased" with results in Family Court, where Assistant Prosecutor Leigh Rogner "has not lost a case since she's been here. She takes the cases very seriously and works very hard with FIA (state Family Independence Agency), which partners very well with our office."
Looking ahead to 2005, Fitz said the busy trial schedule will continue.
Voters at the August primary passed a drug millage Fitz promoted along with Sheriff Joe Underwood and Dowagiac Police Chief Tom Atkinson.
Fitz indicated he's building on the "strong tradition" he inherited from predecessor Scott Teter for aggressive child support enforcement.
Fitz also touched on the Safe Neighborhoods gun initiative announced with another predecessor, U.S. Attorney Margaret Chiara, and the Department of Justice.
Fitz also formally introduced his newest assistant prosecutor, Cara Hornbach, who started Sept. 27.