‘Predator’ babysitter sentenced to prison

An Edwardsburg man described by prosecutors as “the enemy within” a neighboring family’s household will be serving time in a Michigan penitentiary.

Joseph Lee Moses

Joseph Lee Moses

Judge Michael Dodge sentenced 28-year-old Joseph Lee Moses to a minimum term of 30 months to a maximum term of 10 years in prison during his hearing in Cass County Court Friday, for a single charge of criminal sexual conduct — assault with intent to commit sexual penetration. Moses had pleaded guilty to the charge in an appearance in court on Feb. 26.

The charge against Moses stem from a sexual assault he committed against a then 14-year-old girl on April 12, 2015. Moses committed the offense while babysitting at the victim’s home that afternoon, said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz.

According to the victim, Moses’ assault was the culmination of nearly six-months of “grooming” behavior, with the defendant sexually touching the victim nearly 50 times during that period, the judge said.

“At age 14, this young girl was considered incapable of consenting to such sexual activity,” Dodge said. “Your decision to engage in such sexual conduct, at age 27, does represent a serious felony offense. The victim suffered both physical and emotional injuries as a result of your criminal conduct.”

The attack left the victim with an injury that required medical treatment, taking her three weeks to fully recover from, Dodge said.

Fitz, in his statement to the court, characterized Moses’ assault as a “selfish, really evil act.” According to the prosecutor, the victim has experienced trouble sleeping and has been distracted at school since the attack, saying that she is always thinking what she could have
done differently.

“That speaks volumes,” Fitz said. “The fact that she feels guilty, that this was her fault — that is because of what he did. She shouldn’t feel guilty, she shouldn’t feel like this is her fault, because there was a man in the house who should have been a man but instead was a predator.”

The victim’s mother also spoke during the proceedings that morning, telling the defendant that she and her daughter felt betrayed by his actions after allowing him into their home.

“Today I believe that justice will be served for the crime you have committed on our family,” she said. “Today, [we] can put this all behind us. We also want you to know that we forgive you — not for you, but for us to heal.”

Moses’ attorney, Jason Ronning, told the court that his client, while maintaining his innocence on the other incidents alleged by the victim, has been upfront about his responsibility in the April 12 assault. Given the fact the Edwardsburg man has a relatively clean prior record, the attorney asked the judge to impose a local jail sentence as punishment.

“I’ve been doing this for a while, and I’ve dealt with a lot of evil people,” Ronning said. “Mr. Moses is not one of them. He made a terrible decision that he needs to be punished for.”

Ronning also added that Moses has already registered as a sex offender, and will remain on the registry for the rest of his life.

In spite of the attorney’s request, Dodge ruled that a local sentence was not appropriate punishment for Moses’ crime given the serious nature of the offense, the judge said.

Moses was given credit for one day already served behind bars.

Also sentenced Friday:

• Howard James Davis III, 41, of Cassopolis, to 90 days in jail and 18 months of probation for assaulting/resisting/obstructing a police officer.

• Basil Evan Rowe, 47, of Edwardsburg, to a minimum of one year to a maximum of 20 years in prison for possession of methamphetamine.

• Gary Franklin Coons, 23, of Dowagiac, to 270 days in jail for possession of analogues and possession of marijuana.

• Jerome Adam Cox, 40, of Cassopolis, to two years of probation for operating/maintaining a lab involving methamphetamine and possession of marijuana.

• Colin Richard Steele, 39, of Dowagiac, to two years of probation for possession of methamphetamine.

• Michael Lester Hodge, 47, of Dowagiac, to two years of probation for possession of cocaine.

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