Escapee sentenced to prison

Published 10:16 am Monday, November 23, 2015

The inmate who fled from Cass County Jail in late September will be moving out of his cell in Cassopolis — and into one  at a Michigan prison complex.

Jason Matthew Graham

Jason Matthew Graham

Cass County Circuit Judge Michael Dodge sentenced 20-year-old Jason Graham, of Three Rivers, to a minimum of two years to a maximum of six years in prison during his sentencing hearing Friday morning in Cassopolis, on a charge of escaping from a felony jail sentence and of resisting and obstructing a police officer. He pleaded guilty to the two charges on Oct. 8.

The charges stem from Graham’s escape from the Cass County jail facility in Cassopolis back on Sept. 26. Graham, who was incarcerated for a 330-day sentence at the jail in connection with a resisting and obstructing a police officer charge, was on work detail in the jail at the time, assigned with taking trash to a dumpster just outside the building.

“As you were returning to the jail, you fled into the woods, running away from the corrections officer and ignoring any orders they gave you to stop,” Dodge said.

Following his escape, county law enforcement mobilized in order to apprehend the escaped inmate. The county also issued warnings to local residents, with the campus of Southwestern Michigan College going into a temporary lockdown.

Graham was on the lamb for approximately 25 hours before Graham was tracked down and arrested by police without incident in Three Rivers.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz described Graham’s escape as “really selfish behavior,” saying his actions caused the county to expend thousands of dollars in order to recapture him as well as frightened residents in the community.

“He changed this community, and that is not a good thing — it’s a selfish thing,” Fitz said.

The prosecutor asked the court to impose a two-year prison sentence as recommended by the department of corrections.

Graham has yet to share his motivation for why he decided to flee, either with law enforcement or with his attorney, James Miller.

“Unfortunately, he’s put himself into a bind, and now he has to pay the price,” Miller said. “I think he accepts that.”

Graham himself shed no further light on his actions during his appearance in court Friday, telling the judge he had no comment when asked if he wanted speak on his own behalf.

Given Graham’s escape from the facility, Dodge found that a local sentence was no longer suitable for these latest charges, and ordered the defendant to serve the prison term recommended by the state and prosecutor.

“Escaping from jail is a serious offense,” Dodge said. “It threatens the security of the institution itself and puts the community at risk at well.”

Graham’s prison time will be served consecutive to his prior sentence, per state law.

Also sentenced Friday:

• Patrick Chesnutt, 36, of Edwardsburg, to five years of probation and 150 days in jail on charges of possession of sexually abusive material of a child, distributing sexually abusive material of a child, and using a computer to commit a crime.

• Donesia Tucker, 35, of Dowagiac, to two years of probation and 150 days in jail for delivery/manufacture of cocaine and possession of marijuana.

• Rachel Kellogg, 22, of Elkhart, to 18 months of probation for possession of methamphetamine.

• Jacob Miller, 23, of Dowagiac, to 18 months of probation for possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana.

• Sherry Rosendahl, 38, of Edwardsburg, to three years of probation for meth related charges, possession of marijuana and receiving and concealing stolen property.