Dowagiac man gets 16 months for driving drunk

Published 9:39 am Monday, February 22, 2016

A Dowagiac man’s ongoing problem with the bottle has resulted in a trip to the slammer.

Judge Michael Dodge sentenced 39-year-old Fabian James Wesaw to a minimum of 16 months to a maximum of 7.5 years in prison during the man’s sentencing hearing Friday in Cass County Court, on a single charge of operating while intoxicated. Wesaw pleaded guilty to the crime on Jan. 4.

The charge stems from an incident that occurred nearly two years ago, on Oct. 25, 2014, when deputies with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office discovered a vehicle driven by Wesaw in a roadside ditch on M-62, near the intersection of California Road. Though the vehicle was still running, the officers found Wesaw, the sole occupant of the vehicle, in the driver’s seat, unconscious and nonresponsive.

“When the officers finally did rouse you, to get a response you were obviously intoxicated,” Dodge said. “You told the officers you had been drinking. You had consumed several beers throughout the evening.”

A blood test conducted shortly thereafter at Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital showed that Wesaw had .22 blood alcohol content, nearly three times the Michigan legal limit of .08, Dodge said.

Wesaw has an extensive prior record, consisting of three felonies and 13 misdemeanors — most of which are related to his ongoing struggles with drinking, with six different drunk driving convictions, Dodge said.

“You have an addiction to alcohol,” Dodge said. “It’s a strong one. It’s something that you’ve just not been able to permanently kick.”

In spite of the crash taking place in 2014, Wesaw was not apprehended by police until nearly a year later, after he took off while on parole from jail, Dodge said.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz also pointed out the defendant’s past criminal behavior and alcohol abuse, stating that the Dowagiac man poses a threat to public safety whenever he gets behind the wheel while intoxicated.

“When you put yourself behind the wheel of what is literally a missile, that when put into gear and going down the highway can and often does kill another person, that is no trivial matter,” Fitz said.

Wesaw told the court he takes full responsibilities for his actions behind the wheel that night, and admitted that 95 percent of the trouble in his life has stemmed from drinking. Since his arrest, he has been attending church services and Bible studies at the jail, finding “a new life in Christ,” he said.

“The lord has blessed me, and has delivered this blessing to me for me to sit down and be able to take a strong look at my life,” Wesaw said.

Given his prior record and his status as a parole absconder, Dodge ruled against giving the Dowagiac man probation, instead sentencing to him to prison.

Wesaw was given credit for 138 days already served in jail.

Also sentenced Friday:

• Justin William Huffman, 24, of Union, to one year in jail for possession of methamphetamine and assault with a dangerous weapon.

• Gregory John Bedel, 27, of Niles, to 18 months of probation for illegal use of a financial transaction device.

• Joseph Lee Emerson III, 20, of Cassopolis, to 30 days of jail and 18 months of probation for delivery/manufacture of marijuana and possession of marijuana.

• Kristi Renee Harris, 33, of Vandalia, to two years of probation for welfare fraud.

• Blake Daniel McNeil, 21, of Edwardsburg, to a minimum of 18 months to a maximum of 30 years in prison for possession of methamphetamine and possession of firearms by a felon.