Area resident sentenced on sexual abuse charge

CASSOPOLIS — A Dowagiac man is going to prison for criminal sexual conduct incidents that occurred last year and earlier this year.

Joshua Benjamin-Alex Lange, 35, of East Railroad Street in Dowagiac, pleaded no contest to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced Friday in Cass Circuit Court to 20 to 50 years in prison. He must also register as a sex offender.

The incidents occurred between May 2018 and January 2019 at a location in the Dowagiac area against a 9-year-old girl. Another person involved in the incident, Alison Morgado, is set to go on trial Sept. 24.

Lange had initially been charged with 11 other counts including first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a person under age 13, conspiracy to commit first-degree criminal sexual conduct, two counts of child abusive commercial activity and two counts of possession of child sexually abusive materials.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz noted that a plea agreement between his office and Lange’s attorney, Paul Jancha, capped Lange’s prison term to a minimum of 20 years although the charge normally carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

“This was a case of horrendous sexual abuse and shows his depravity,” Fitz said in court Friday. “This is something she can heal from, but the memories of what happened will never be erased from her mind. It will stay with her forever. This was an extremely selfish and perverted sexual act.”

Cass County Circuit Judge Mark Herman called Lange’s actions “evil.” He noted that while Lange wrote in court report that it had been a mistake, that his actions were “no mistake” and were intentional.

Lange did not speak before sentencing.

Also Friday:

• A Dowagiac area roofing contractor sentenced a month ago on a fraud related charge was back in court Friday for violating his probation.

Jeffrey Tod Burks, 56, of Sheldon Street in Dowagiac, was sentenced Aug. 9 to false pretenses more than $1,000 and less than $20,000 as a habitual offender and was sentenced to probation, tether and restitution. He was ordered at that time to not work as a contractor.

Friday, Burks was back before Judge Herman for violating his probation by continuing to work as a contractor. Although Burks continues to face sentencing guidelines that call for prison, Judge Herman continued Burks’ probation and gave him a 30-day jail sentence. He has credit for 10 days already served.

“He’s squandered his opportunity,” Fitz said. “Here he is again for the same type of behavior. … He was told not to do work, and he did. He violated his probation and sending him to prison would be entirely justified. No rule says he has to be given five, 10 or 15 chances.”

Defense attorney McKinley Elliott said that Burks had shut down his business and his website but was looking to hire someone to sealcoat a roof so he could use the proceeds of the deal to pay off some of his restitution.

Elliott said Burks attempted to contact his probation officer to get his approval but could not get through to him. Elliott emphasized that no work was actually done, and Burks did not get any money.

“This was not a nefarious deed on his part,” he said. “I don’t think he’ll do this again. He has a job coming up that involves office work.”

Judge Herman gave Burks another chance but said he would very likely send him to prison if he has another probation violation.

“To be clear, you can be an employee only,” he told Burks. “Your history has been taking money from people, not doing the work and defrauding them.”

• A South Bend man was given the mandatory 30-day jail term for third offense driving while intoxicated.

Michael Allen Chamberlain, 31, pleaded guilty to third offense drunk driving and was sentenced to two years’ probation, 480 hours of community service, 30 days in jail with credit for five days served and $315 in restitution.

The incident occurred April 25 in Cassopolis. Chamberlain crashed his truck and was later found to have a blood alcohol level of .22, which is nearly three times the legal limit.

Kevin Andrew Frazier, 40, of Jefferson Street in Dowagiac, pleaded guilty to possession of meth and impaired driving and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation, credit for one day served and $1,438 in fines and costs. The incident occurred April 18 in Dowagiac.

Perry Shawn Hardesty, 46, of South Bend, pleaded guilty to attempted possession of a stolen motor vehicle and was sentenced to 365 days in jail with credit for 444 days already served, $1,198 in fines and costs and $775.56 in restitution. The incident occurred May 19.

Lisa Margaret Oakes, 51, of Juniper Road in Niles, pleaded guilty to possession of meth and was sentenced to two years’ probation, credit for four days already served and $1,238 in fines and costs. The incident occurred Nov. 9, 2018, in Howard Township.

Jimmy Joe Stacy, 40, of Kalamazoo, pleaded guilty to attempted unlawful driving away of an automobile and was sentenced to credit for seven days already served and $1,069.18 in fines, costs and restitution. The incident occurred Jan. 16 in Marcellus.

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