Two residents sentenced after harming children in separate cases

NILES — Two men convicted for harming children in separate cases were sentenced to prison Monday morning in Berrien County Trial court.

Brett Kenneth York, 25, of the 2300 block of E. Main Street in Niles, was found guilty by a jury in September for five criminal charges, including three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct of a person under 13 and two charges of second-degree criminal sexual conduct of a person under 13.

Brett York

The offenses occurred between June and August of 2016 at locations across Niles and Niles Township.

Judge Charles LaSata sentenced York to concurrent sentences of 25 to 70 years in prison for count one, three and four and 71 months to 15 years in prison for count two and count five. Should he ever be released from prison, York was ordered to be on lifetime GPS monitoring. York has credit for 171 days served. He was also ordered to pay $407 in fines and costs.

Jane Wainwright, a Berrien County assistant prosecuting attorney, referred back to York’s three-day trial in September. She said according to victim testimony, the abuse took place in multiple locations and this indicated the frequency at which the victim was being abused, she said.

Two other victims also came forward during the trial to testify, alleging that they had also been abused by York.

“That shows that no child is going to be safe alone with this defendant,” Wainwright said. “He needs to go away from society for a significant amount of time.”

Defense attorney Scott Sanford asked the court to remember that asking the victim to testify was part of his right to a fair trial. York declined to say anything further when given the chance to speak in court.

LaSata also referred back to the trial and said the testimony he heard indicated that York is an experienced abuser.

“I do not know what demons you have in you, sir, but they need to be locked away for a long time,” LaSata said.

Jeffrey Scott Wilds

Jeff Scott Wilds, 55, of the 100 block of S. Barrett Street in Niles, pleaded guilty to multiple offenses on Sept. 12. He was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

LaSata sentenced him to 180 to 300 months in prison for the first and second charges and 57 to 180 months in prison for the final charge. The sentences will be served concurrently and he was also ordered to be on lifetime electronic monitoring. He was also issued to pay $394 in fines and costs. Wilds has credit for 59 days served.

The offenses involved more than one victim and occurred between June 1, 2014 and Aug. 16 in Niles. The victims were around 12 or 13 when they were assaulted.

When it was their turn to speak, two victims told the court how Wilds’ actions had disrupted their lives. They said following the incidents, they suffered from nightmares, difficulty focusing and had to deal with the erosion of personal relationship, due to Wilds’ actions.

Jerry Vigansky, a Berrien County assistant prosecuting attorney, said the crimes robbed the victims of their innocence and youth.

“What he did is despicable,” Vigansky said. “It is hard to comprehend why he did what he did.”

When police authorities confronted Wilds, Vigansky said Wilds refused to take responsibility for the crimes and blamed the victims.

“He is a menace to society and probably the lowest you can be as a human being,” Vigansky said. “There is nothing we can do to correct this other than to keep him away from society for as long as possible.”

Vigansky said he recommended that the judge sentence Wilds on the harsher side of penalty guidelines and said he deserved to “rot in prison.”

Sanford, who also represented Wilds, said that his client had not been in trouble with the law before. Sanford also said that Wilds does not know why he committed the crimes.

Wilds was given a chance to speak and apologized to members of his family hurt by his actions.

LaSata said he agreed that society needs to be protected from Wilds.

“In order to protect the public, I agree with the people,” LaSata said. “This was a bad, terrible situation.”

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