Habitual drunk driver gets prison sentence

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Benton Harbor man who has habitually driven drunk will spend a minimum of 14 months to a maximum of seven and a half years in the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Brandon Depriest, 41, of Benton Harbor, was sentenced by Judge Angela Pasula, after being charged with a third offense of operating while intoxicated and a second offense of operating while license suspended. Depriest pleaded guilty to the crimes on March 28.

Depriest was arrested on March 15, when an officer from the Berrien Springs Oronoko Township Police Department observed him driving on M-139. The car he was operating was reported to have a loud exhaust and had no visible license plates.

During the traffic stop, the officer observed “an odor of intoxication.” Depriest refused the officer’s request for a preliminary breath test, but obliged to a leg stand test, alphabet and number test, the police report stated. Depriest did not pass the number test.

Brandon Depriest

Depriest was placed under arrest and transported to Lakeland Hospital. His blood alcohol level was .18 percent.

According to Judge Pasula, Depriest later told police that he had consumed about 10 beers.

Depriest has five prior convictions for drinking and driving, has been to jail 13 times and has received two prison sentences, according to Pasula.

Standing before the judge with cuffed hands, Depriest said it was clear that he needed help.

“They say ‘the first step to correcting a problem is admitting that you have one,’” Depriest said. He went on to say that he did not originally see himself as having a problem and had therefore never had an opportunity to go to rehab or get treatment.

Depriest’s attorney said that while his client did have a problem, he was employed full-time and had achieved a high school degree and some college credit.

Pasula said with Depriest’s record he likely was ordered to attend some sort of treatment and if he did not go, it was his choice. 

“You have been on probation four separate times and it has been revoked on three occasions, so to say that you have never been to any counseling or treatment would lead me to believe that that was certainly by choice,” Pasula said. “You do not have to wait for a court to order you to go get counseling or treatment.”

Depriest has credit for 40 days served in jail. He was also ordered to attend alcohol treatment and counseling while in prison. Pasula also said Depriest would not be getting his license back.

“Do not drive,” Pasula said. “You put yourself and everybody out there in danger.”

Also on Monday:

A Gobles, Michigan man who allegedly attacked a Michigan State Police trooper during a motorcycle stop appeared in court Monday for a case conference before Berrien County Trial Court Judge Angela Pasula.

Michael Scott Barber, 21, and his attorney, Scott Sanford, told the judge that they were working on a plea agreement.

“We are still talking and there is not a firm offer made at this point,” Sanford said.

Barber was charged after an incident that occurred Feb. 20, when Michigan State Trooper Garry Guild attempted to stop Barber because he was speeding on the U.S. 31 bypass.

Barber did not heed to the officer’s demand and instead was alleged to have sped up and re-enter the freeway. Guild pursued the man for three miles, until Barber crashed in the gore of the exit ramp.

Following the crash, Barber returned to his feet and charged the officer. During the tussle between Barber and Guild, Barber’s brother, Travis Tyler Wise, approached the scene in another vehicle and attempted to choke Guild, while Barber punched the officer.

The struggle was caught on Officer Guild’s dashboard camera.

Two passersby who noticed the struggle stopped and helped the officer.

Barber and Wise were arraigned Feb. 21.

Barber was charged with:

• assault strangulation, a 10-year felony;

• flee and elude third degree, a five-year felony;

• resisting and obstructing a police officer causing injury, a four-year felony; and

• attempt disarming a police officer (a taser), a two-year felony.

Wise is charged with:

• assault strangulation, a 10-year felony;

• obstruction of justice, a five-year felony;

• resisting and obstruction a police officer causing injury, a four-year felony; and

• attempt disarming a police officer (a taser), a two-year felony

Barber’s status conference is set for May 10. His trial is set for May 17.

• Phillip St. Cin was charged with third-degree child abuse and sentenced to eight days of jail, two years of probation and 120 days on the department of corrections tether.

• Zachary Kozlowski was charged with second-degree home invasion and larceny from a motor vehicle. He will serve 100 days in the Berrien County Jail, with credit for 100 days served; two years of probation. He was ordered to earn a GED.

• Joel Wright was charged with operating while license suspended/denied-serious injury. He was sentenced to 365 days in the Berrien County Jail consecutive to rule.