Man jailed for brandishing firearm during dog dispute

Published 9:12 am Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What began as a dispute over a dog entering someone’s private property ended with a Berrien County man being sentenced to jail.

Steven Vasquez, 26, of Berrien Springs, was sentenced Monday in Berrien County Niles Court to two years of probation and 60 days in jail on the charge of carrying a concealed weapon.

On April 8, Vasquez got into an argument after one of the victims complained that Vasquez’s dog was on their property in Berrien Township.

Judge Dennis Wiley said the victim threated to shoot the dog if it ever came on their property again. That’s when, according to Wiley, Vasquez pulled out a handgun. No shots were fired, but Wiley said it was a dangerous situation.

“All of a sudden you could have a gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” Wiley said. “If you don’t think it will happen … it happens everyday.”

What was most disturbing to Wiley, he said, was that children were present.

“You introduced a lethal weapon, a handgun, into this altercation,” he said. “You put those children in danger.”

Vasquez’s lawyer said his client has three kids and another on the way, adding that going to jail could hurt his employment with a local manufacturing company.

As a condition of probation, Vasquez was ordered to have no contact with the victims and not to possess any weapons. His handgun was forfeited.

He has credit for two days already served.

Also Monday, Rachel Orban, 37, of Berrien Springs, was sentenced to two years probation, four days in jail and 60 hours of community service for falsely reporting a felony. According to court documents, Orban said electronics, including a friend’s television, were stolen from her residence in Berrien Township in February.

Rachel Orban

Rachel Orban

Police later learned that Orban had sold the television to a friend. Orban’s attorney, Shannon Sible, said his client is seeking help for an addiction to opiates.

Wiley said Orban is like others who have committed this offense in that they don’t realize they are wasting the time of police officers who could be investigating real crimes.

“That’s pretty selfish all the way around,” Wiley said.

As a condition of probation, Orban was ordered not to have contact with the person whose television she sold. She was ordered to pay more than $2,000 in fines and costs. She received credit for four days served.

Also Monday, Wiley refused to accept the terms of a plea agreement between the prosecutor’s office and a 17-year-old Benton Harbor man charged with distributing obscene matter to a 13-year-old girl in Eau Claire. In exchange for the 17-year-old’s guilty plea, the prosecution was going to grant him the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which allows a judge to place a youth between 17 and 20 in prison or on probation without a conviction to avoid a criminal record.

As a result of Wiley’s decision, the 17-year-old withdrew his plea of guilty and Wiley set a trial for Aug. 6-8.

According to court documents, the 17-year-old was caught sending a nude photo of himself using a cell phone to his 13-year-old girlfriend in February.