Break-in results in probation

Published 10:12 am Tuesday, January 22, 2019

CASSOPOLIS — A Niles man who broke into a vacant Niles area home with his girlfriend was sentenced to probation Friday in Cass County Circuit Court.

Scott Robert Hess, 55, of Burton Road in Niles, pleaded guilty to breaking and entering a building with intent to commit larceny and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation, credit for two days in jail already served and $1,258 in fines and costs. Any restitution will be determined at a later date.

The incident occurred April 12, 2018, at another property on Burton Road in Howard Township. Hess and his girlfriend were caught by the homeowner after he was alerted by a silent alarm. The homeowner held them at gunpoint until police arrived.

Hess’ girlfriend, Kelly Lynn Jacks, 40, of Burton Road in Niles, was sentenced to probation and fines and costs for breaking and entering a building with intent to commit larceny in mid-December. She can keep the felony off her record if she successfully completes her probation.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz argued unsuccessfully for a longer jail sentence for Hess. He noted Hess’ prior six misdemeanor convictions.

“I ask for a moderate sentence. Two days is not sufficient,” Fitz said. “Sixty to 90 days would be more appropriate.”

Defense attorney Greg Feldman disagreed. He pointed out that most of Hess’ prior convictions are a decade or more old and that Hess has gotten in trouble recently because of alcohol abuse.

“To impose additional jail doesn’t do any good,” Feldman said. “What he needs to do is to deal with his alcohol problem. It needs to be addressed on a professional basis. Treatment will benefit society more than jail.”

Cass Circuit Judge Mark Herman said he hoped Hess had learned his lesson and noted that the incident could have turned out much worse.

“You could end up getting yourself killed,” he said.

In a probation violation sentence, a Cassopolis man had his probation revoked and was sentenced to jail.

John Rolland Smith, Jr., 35, of Marcellus Highway in Cassopolis, pleaded guilty to violating his probation from an October conviction for tampering with an electronic device as a habitual offender. He had his probation revoke and was ordered to serve 365 days in jail. He has credit for 224 days already served.

Smith violated his Swift & Sure probation by exhibiting threatening and intimidating behavior. His past record includes prison sentences for resisting and obstructing police and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle said she felt Smith should be sent back to prison. “He’s not listening to people and following through,” she said. “Now he’s threatening others.”

Feldman said Smith is finally ready to deal with “his demons” including his substance abuse. He called Smith an intimidating figure physically and said he needs to learn how to better deal with his anger.

Judge Herman said that he understood Vohwinkle’s request for prison but said Smith would come out without having access to any of the counseling and other services he can get locally. “It’s more beneficial to him if he’s here,” he said.

A sentencing for a South Bend man convicted of home invasion and similar charges at an October trial was delayed. Fitz said his office plans to appeal Judge Herman’s decision to vacate the two felony charges against Jonathan Tyler Nash, 20, after the jury verdict.

Nash was convicted of two felony home invasion charges and two misdemeanor illegal entry charges stemming from an April 2017 incident on Calvin Hill Street in Cassopolis. The illegal entry charges remain. Fitz was given 45 days to file an appeal of Herman’s ruling.