Mobile meth lab lands man in prison

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A man arrested for operating a methamphetamine laboratory out his own vehicle will be spending the next several years behind bars.

Richard Allen Baham, 33, of Kalamazoo, was sentenced to a minimum term of 51 months to a maximum term of 30 years in prison by Judge Michael Dodge during his hearing before the Cass County official Friday morning.

Baham was punished for several drug related charges, including delivery/manufacturing of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine and operating/maintaining a lab involving methamphetamine.

The Kalamazoo man pleaded guilty to the three charges back on Aug. 10.

According to the judge, the charges followed Baham’s arrest on May 15 of this year, after his vehicle was stopped by an officer with the Dowagiac Police Department on Spruce Street. The police officer pulled over Baham after the defendant had made several suspicious purchases at Hales True Value Hardware, located on M-51 in Dowagiac.

“You were buying the things that you typically need to manufacture or make methamphetamine, buying some of the necessary components,” Dodge said.

The officer making the stop took Baham into custody after discovering the man was driving with a suspended driver’s license. A subsequent investigation uncovered evidence that Baham was using his car as a meth lab.

“You had the stuff you needed to manufacture meth right there in your vehicle,” Dodge said. “You possessed some of the manufactured substance as well.”

Baham admitted to authorities that he was making the drug at the time, and was suffering from an addiction to it as well.

The Kalamazoo man was convicted as an habitual offender on all three counts — his prior criminal history includes four felonies and 10 misdemeanors, Dodge said.

Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle requested that Baham receive a prison sentence for his crimes, due in part to his checkered criminal history, she said.

“His prior record, his history of probation, his violations, all add up to him being a safety risk for the public,” Vohwinkle said.

The defendant’s attorney, Daniel French, argued that his client should not have to face prison incarceration for the charges, saying that Baham would make an excellent candidate for the court’s Swift and Sure probation program, which would help him take care of his meth addiction, he said.

“I’m just afraid, with five years in prison, he’ll come out worse than he went in,” French said.

In spite of his participation in the jail’s meth diversion program, Baham did not receive a recommendation for Swift and Sure sanctions, Dodge said.

Baham was given credit for 117 days already served.