Displaying ‘gun’ results in prison time for Niles man

Published 9:12 am Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Niles man who said he pretended he was carrying a gun in order to break up an argument will spend the next several months in state prison.

James Walter Fitch, 26, of the 1600 block of Huron Street, was sentenced Monday in Berrien County Trial Court in Niles to a minimum of 18 months and a maximum of four years in the Michigan Department of Corrections on one count of assault with a dangerous weapon. Fitch pleaded no contest to the charge earlier.

The charge stems from an incident that occurred May 10. According to court documents, police responded to the 1400 block of Regent Street on a report of an altercation where a gun was displayed. The victim said he was arguing with several other people when Fitch displayed a gun.

James Walter Fitch

James Walter Fitch

The victim told police that the weapon was a semi-automatic handgun, although Fitch told the Judge Angela Pasula Monday it was an air-soft pistol. The weapon was never recovered, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Pasula said Fitch’s choice to get involved was the wrong decision, even if the weapon was not a real handgun.

“You don’t have the right to pull any kind of weapon on anyone,” she said.

Fitch’s attorney, Lanny Fisher, said his client was sticking up for his friends and never meant to harm anyone. Fisher said his client’s actions caused the crowd to disperse peacefully with everyone going their separate ways.

“The downside is James knows he shouldn’t have put himself in that situation,” Fisher said.

Fitch apologized to the victims and his family, saying he made a brash decision that he regrets.

Pasula said Fitch’s actions concern her because of his past violent behavior, including a conviction for assault with intent to rob while armed. Pasula said he served time in prison on that conviction.

Fitch has credit for 104 days already served.

Also Monday, Josed R. Estrella-Fradera, 29, of the 3700 block of E. Lemon Creek Road, in Berrien Springs, was sentenced to a minimum of 54 months and a maximum of seven years in prison after police discovered he was in possession of multiple images of children being sexually abused.