Local man gets back-to-back prison sentences in Berrien, Cass

Published 9:50 am Monday, December 24, 2018

CASSOPOLIS — A homeless man who was sentenced to prison last week in Berrien County Trial Court received two more prison sentences in Cass County Circuit Court Friday.

Billy Dean Roden, 37, pleaded guilty to violating his probation from two 2016 drug convictions. His probation was revoked and he was sentenced to two concurrent terms of six to 30 years in prison. He has credit for 168 days already served in one case and for 155 days already served in the other.

He had been sentenced earlier in the week in Niles to 16 months to five years in prison for carrying a concealed weapon in an automobile in an October incident in Niles.

Cass Circuit Judge Mark Herman noted that Roden had been given a chance in 2016 to take part in drug treatment court through the Swift & Sure probation program.

“But you went back and relapsed,” he said. “We gave you the tools but when the urge came to take drugs, you didn’t take advantage of them. … You’re 37 years old, and old enough to understand the consequences but also young enough to get out of prison and enjoy the rest of your life.”

Roden apologized for messing up the opportunity he had been given to stay out of prison.

“This is a sad day for Mr. Roden,” defense attorney Greg Feldman said. “He was in Swift & Sure. Unfortunately it didn’t stick. I have hope for him. He will come out young enough to enjoy a drug free life.”

Prosecutor Victor Fitz said Roden’s past has caught up with him.

“His past and present have caught up with him,” he said. “He squandered the chance he was given. There needs to be an example made that if you get involved with drugs and are given a golden opportunity and squander it, there’s a price to pay.”

A man with a long history of resisting police was sentenced to a year in jail.

Jason Lee Ottinger, 25, pleaded guilty of resisting and obstructing police and was sentenced to 365 days in jail with credit for 97 days already served. He must pay $1,048 in fines and costs. He was given credit for time served and ordered to pay $50 for possession of marijuana.

The incident occurred Sept. 15 in the 300 block of Courtland in Dowagiac when he caused a disturbance after taking property out of a yard and hiding some marijuana in a gutter. He then fled from police when they arrived.

Fitz noted that this was Ottinger’s 11th resisting and obstructing charge.

“With this repetitive type of behavior, a message has to be sent,” he said. “Officers need to be respected.”

A Cassopolis woman already on parole was sentenced to jail for possession of methamphetamine.

Raychel Dyan Lapham, 33, of Williamsburg Road in Cassopolis, pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine as a habitual offender and was sentenced to 300 days in jail. She has credit for no time served as she is on probation from an earlier drug conviction. She must pay $1,198 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred July 25 when her parole officer made a surprise visit to her home and found methamphetamines. She is on parole from a 2016 meth lab conviction in Kalamazoo County.

“I find no joy in the Christmas season to say that she needs to go to jail,” Fitz said. “At 33 years old, she is no child any more. The last few years she’s been jaunting around southwest Michigan creating havoc in South Haven, Kalamazoo and Ottawa County. Now she’s come to roost in Cass County.”

A young woman who hit another woman with a tire iron was sentenced to jail and probation.

Lorraine Landa Mitchell, 18, pleaded guilty to attempted assault with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation, 84 days in jail with credit for 78 days served and $1,728 in fines and costs. She must complete the Twin County Probation program.

The incident occurred Oct. 4 in the 500 block of Riverside Drive in Dowagiac. She got into an argument with Crystal Wakefield and hit her three times on the head with a tire iron.

Fitz noted that Mitchell has been using marijuana and drinking alcohol since she was 12. He said that it would be a safer Christmas for the victim if Mitchell stayed in jail longer.