Niles felon with ‘unbelievable’ criminal history gets second chance

Published 9:24 pm Monday, January 10, 2011

CASSOPOLIS — Facing his sentencing for methamphetamine convictions at Cass County Circuit Court Friday, Jason Heller admitted his criminal record is “unbelievable.”

The Niles resident has four prior felonies and 11 misdemeanors to his credit, but Heller said he was finally ready to turn things around.

Partly based on his participation and success in the Cass County methamphetamine diversion program, Heller was able to avoid a prison term. Judge Michael Dodge sentenced him to a three-year probation term with one year in jail despite Chief Assistant Prosecutor Frank Machnik’s recommendation of at least two years in prison.

For his part, Heller showed remorse.

“I apologize for bringing drugs into the community,” he said. “Drugs have been in my life for 15 years … but my desire to quit drugs has never been so high. I ask for one more chance to change. If I don’t, we both know where I’ll be.”

Dodge granted him his wish.

“I’m always willing to give someone a second chance if they deserve it,” Dodge said.