Former star athlete faces up to 15 years for assaulting witness

Published 9:33 am Monday, January 27, 2014

As bailiffs escorted him to the back of the judge’s bench and out of the courtroom, Darius Wilson’s friends and family sobbed and stifled tears, with one woman shouting, “love you Darius!”

Darius Wilson

Darius Wilson

He paused for a brief second, looked back and told her “I’ll be alright,” before exiting the room.

Wilson, 20, of Dowagiac, was sentenced by Judge Michael Dodge to a maximum of 15 years in prison Friday for witness retaliation and assault and battery. A 12-person jury found Wilson guilty of the charges last month.

“Witness intimidation strikes at the heart of our criminal justice system, and it simply cannot be tolerated,” said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. “It demands a harsh response.”

Police apprehended Wilson last year after he and two other accomplices assaulted Treveon Williams at Rotary Park in Dowagiac in April. The three men punched Williams to the ground, where they proceeded to stomp him about the head and torso before scattering once a crowd began to form.

Wilson and the other two attackers targeted Williams because of his testimony during the trial of Justin Young, a friend of Wilson. Young was sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for home invasion in February.

Fitz asked the judge for the maximum possible sentence, in order to send a message to others in the county who attempt intimidate witnesses.

“You do not mess with the physical well being of another human being,” Fitz said. “You do not mess with our witnesses. And you do not mess with the integrity of our criminal justice system.”

Dodge sentenced Wilson at the top of the sentencing guidelines, which was increased to 15 years due to his status as a habitual offender.

“When you beat up a witness who is just doing his civic duty by testifying in a criminal proceeding he has been subpoenaed to be in, I take that very seriously and I think the rest of society does as well,” the judge said.

Wilson was a former standout star on the Dowagiac Union High School basketball team, and helped to lead the team to the semifinals of Michigan’s Class B tournament in 2011. Since his graduation, he attended a number of community colleges around the Midwest.

“In addition to losing his freedom, Wilson has also put on hold, for some period at least, the pursuit of an education and a career,” said James Miller, Wilson’s attorney. “I think he’s a capable enough young man who could accomplish those things if he can focus on the objective rather than be influenced by unsavory surroundings.”

Wilson also spoke on his own behalf during his sentencing hearing.

“I’m sorry for my actions,” he said. “I’m not this horrible human being the prosecution has made me out to be. I’m just a normal kid who made a mistake, and has learned from it.”

Cass County prosecutors have charged two other men, Terron Young and Tyquil Douglas, for allegedly participating with Wilson in the assault. Young and Douglas will be tried in March.

Also sentenced Friday:

• Anthony White, 21, of South Bend, to two years in prison for a felony firearm charge. White pleaded guilty on Dec. 6 to the charges, which stem from a March 19 break-in of the Trails End Sporting store in Vandalia he participated in. White was also ordered to pay $13,029 in restitution fees.

• James Williams, 39, of Union, to 256 days in jail and three years probation for meth-related charges. Williams pleaded guilty on Dec. 6 to the charges. He was arrested on Sept. 11 after officers with Cass County Drug Enforcement Team discovered evidence that he was manufacturing meth inside his residence, following a search of his home. Williams was given 136 days credit for time served, and will spend his remaining jail time at the Twin County Probation Center, where he will complete a drug rehabilitation program.

• Lina Roy, 38, of Edwardsburg, to two years probation for possession of marijuana. Roy pleaded guilty to the charges on Nov. 27. She was arrested on Nov. 5 after a detective with the CCDET discovered around 40 marijuana plants in her home while executing a search of the residence. Although Roy had a medical marijuana license, it was expired at the time of the search. Her license was also suspended for 180 days.

• Mario Evans, 27, of Dowagiac, to a maximum of four years in prison for failure to register as a sex offender. Evans pleaded guilty to the charge on Nov. 27. He was arrested on Nov. 13, after his parole officer discovered that he had two phone numbers and two email addresses that he failed to register with the state.

• Robert DeForest, 35, of Dowagiac, to 180 days in jail and two years probation for obstructing an officer. DeForest pleaded guilty to the charge on Nov. 27. He was arrested on Nov. 17, after an officer with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office was forced to restrain him after being dispatched to his residence to respond to a disturbance. DeForest was intoxicated at the time, with a blood-alcohol level of .37 percent.

• Tommie Turner, 21, of Benton Harbor, to 365 days in jail for multiple charges, including resisting and obstructing police. Turner pleaded guilty to the charges on Dec. 9. The charges stem from an incident that occurred on March 12, after officers were dispatched to the home of his girlfriend, Wykeena Swift, to respond to a domestic assault. Turner choked Swift, then destroyed her phone when she was on the phone with dispatch. Turner then fled from police when they arrived on the scene. He was given 319 days credit for time served.