Circuit Court roundup

Published 7:56 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CASSOPOLIS — Erica Thomas of Three Rivers and co-defendant Christopher Ruth received prison sentences Friday for their methamphetamine activities last summer on White Temple Road, Vandalia.
Thomas, 29, of 61440 Corey Lake, pleaded guilty previously to operating and maintaining a meth lab, possessing meth and maintaining a drug house July 6, for which Circuit Court Judge Michael Dodge imposed a 51-month to 20-year prison term, with credit for 136 days spent in jail, a $500 fine and $547.06 ordered in restitution for clean-up of lab toxic waste.
Calling it a “very disturbing crime” importing “poison” into the community, Prosecutor Victor Fitz made a point which he returned to all morning.
Seven of eight individuals awaiting sentence started by smoking marijuana, a “gateway drug.”
Thomas now has notched her fourth drug conviction, but pot was her first “dalliance” with drugs, Fitz said.
Her attorney, Dale Blunier, said his client reads at a fourth-grade level.
“Drugs have ruined her life, and she realizes that,” the Edwardsburg attorney said.
“I can’t change the facts,” Thomas said in a tearful apology. “Please don’t send me to prison.”
While mindful of her plea for mercy, Dodge said sentencing guideline scores require prison. Pleading to “heavy felonies” left him no grounds to deviate except six months for cooperating with law enforcement.
Ruth, 30, of 58536 W. Greenfield, Three Rivers, pleaded guilty Oct. 14 to similar charges, for which he was also dispatched to prison.
“I’m sorry for my actions,” Ruth told the court. He accumulated three previous misdemeanors, including two involving controlled substances.

Guilty plea in meth lab case

Jaimie Sylvester, 27, of 713 Mary St., Dowagiac, pleaded guilty Oct. 10 to operating a meth lab, possessing meth and operating a drug house July 28 on Dutch Settlement Street, for which Dodge gave her 78 months to 30 years in prison.
Fitz said Sylvester started using marijuana at 12.
Blunier, who has known her much of her life, said, “I feel sorry for her. She never had much of a chance in life.”
Sylvester said she turned to meth at 18 after her child was killed.
Dodge said Sylvester was found with meth and components to cook it during a routine parole inspection. Convicted of three meth-related offenses in 2008, she was sentenced to two to 20 years Jan. 30 and remained on parole.
Charles Eubanks Jr., 39, of 509 W. Railroad St., Dowagiac, got a year in jail, with credit for 103 days served, for possessing less than 25 grams of cocaine and resisting and obstructing an officer causing injury.
Oct. 14 Eubanks entered pleas. The father said jail helped him clean up from a pill addiction. The offense happened Aug. 9 on M-51 in Dowagiac. He scuffled with police trying to subdue him to take him to the hospital. He has two prior felonies, six misdemeanors and absconder status from Florida.

23-year-old jailed for
fleeing troopers

Zachary Wilson, 23, of 10351 M-60, Three Rivers, will spend a year in the county jail for fleeing from state troopers on his motorcycle early Sept. 20 at M-60 and M-40 in Jones.
Fitz said Wilson started drinking at 16 and using marijuana at 18. Absent controlled substances, he wouldn’t be in court or endangering others by running from police.
“I don’t think he’s a terrible person,” Fitz said, earning agreement from defense attorney Lawrence Quigley.
“I know I have an alcohol problem,” Wilson said.
Dodge said his record of six prior misdemeanors and a felony should be of concern to himself because they are directly attributable to alcohol and driving while intoxicated. “You’ve got a huge problem with alcohol.”

Recovering meth addict congratulated

Dodge saved the best for last on a drug-dominated docket Friday.
Amber Hagemann, 27, of 207 Orchard St., heard the judge congratulate her for “dodging a bullet” with methamphetamine and staying clean 440 days.
She’s got an apartment, landed a job in Dowagiac and her daughter was returned to her on Wednesday.
“Stick to your guns and continue to resist temptation,” Dodge praised. “You deserve to be congratulated” for turning her life around in Family Treatment Court.
Hagemann, who began using marijuana at 16, appeared in court Nov. 12, 2010, with no priors to enter pleas to meth and marijuana charges stemming from Aug. 25, 2010, on Main Street in Dowagiac.
Her delayed sentence consists of a year of probation and suspension of her driver’s license for 180 days.