Niles man sent to prison boot camp

Published 9:01 am Tuesday, February 12, 2019

NILES – A Niles man convicted of assault and drug charges will get the chance to turn his life around in prison boot camp.

Austin Michael Liebetrau, 23, of Maple Street in Niles, pleaded guilty to second offense use of methamphetamine and was sentenced Monday in Berrien County Trial Court to two years’ probation, 90 days in jail, completion of prison boot camp, 180 days tether and $1,405.02 in fines, costs and restitution.

He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence and was sentenced to time served, 45 days in jail. Restitution from the domestic violence incident totaling $507.02 was assessed in the meth use sentence.

Austin Michael Liebetrau

The use of methamphetamine incident occurred Oct. 12, 2018, at a residence on Baldwin Drive in Niles Township.

The domestic violence incident occurred Nov. 22, 2018, also at a residence on Baldwin Drive in Niles Township when he assaulted his stepmother by throwing her through a window while he was high on drugs.

The 90-day prison boot camp part of the sentence will occur after Liebetrau takes care of driving and impaired driving charges he faces in St. Joseph County, Indiana.

Berrien County Trial Judge Charles LaSata described Liebetrau’s record as “miserable” with both juvenile and adult convictions. His first juvenile conviction was when he was 12 years old.

He noted that Liebetrau’s mother died of a fentanyl drug overdose when she was 34 years old.

“You would think that would get you to change your ways,” he said. “I’m concerned about the impact on the community if you drive drunk or high and hit someone. … It’s scary enough to drive in Michigan winters without facing someone out there who is high.”

“If you were killed today, what would be on your tombstone?” he asked. “You have accomplished nothing. While others have completed high school, college or gone in the military, all you’ve done is commit crimes. It’s ridiculous. I don’t see anything to indicate a change in direction. You get out of jail, and the only thing you do is commit new crimes.”

“Maybe the prison boot camp can turn this train around,” the judge said. “You have as bad a record as I’ve seen and your family history is bad. Something has to change … I want to set you up to be successful. Boot camp is pretty intense, but nothing we’ve done so far has worked.”

Also Monday, a Portage, Indiana woman was sentenced to jail on a drug charge.

Kayla Jo Belue, 29, of Portage, Indiana pleaded guilty to first offense possession of narcotics (fentanyl) less than 25 grams and was sentenced to 180 days in jail. She has credit for 90 days already served and must pay $198 in fines and costs. Her driver’s license is suspended for 365 days.

The incident occurred Dec. 15 when police found drug paraphernalia and traces of fentanyl in her car during a traffic stop on the U.S. 31 freeway near U.S. 12 in Bertrand Township. She said she ended up in Michigan when she took a wrong turn in South Bend.

Belue also faces impaired driving, driving and drug probation violation charges in Indiana.

Judge LaSata noted that Belue has 13 convictions in the last 12 years as an adult.

“With fentanyl, you may not be long for this world,” he said. “Keep it up and you’ll be dead. You’ve already been to prison three times in Indiana which takes some doing.”