Two Cass County men sentenced on drug charges

CASSOPOLIS – Two area men were sentenced Friday in Cass County Circuit Court for drug charges. The sentencings were once again done remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Brian Adam Balentine, 35, of Edwardsburg, pleaded guilty to delivery/manufacture of marijuana as a habitual offender and was sentenced to 365 days in jail with credit for 579 days already served and $1,548 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred March 28, 2018, at a residence in Ontwa Township. Police searched the home and found marijuana, meth and other drug-related items. A charge of maintaining a drug house was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Cass County Circuit Judge Mark Herman noted that Balentine was subsequently convicted in December, 2018 on meth and resisting and obstructing police charges in Indiana.

Those charges resulted in a sentence of 14 years of supervision including seven years in prison and community corrections and seven years of probation. Balentine will now be returned to Indiana to continue his sentence there with the conclusion of the Cass County case.

“You’ve spent a lot of your life involved in drugs,” the judge said. “Your father died in prison. Don’t set up your children to have that happen with you. You will have to choose what you want to do. If you don’t change your life, your children might also end up in prison. It’s a vicious cycle. Kids follow actions more than words.”

“He has squandered most of his life as an adult,” added Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. “He’s 35 and has been using meth daily since age 20. He has many years of life left, and if he wants it to be different, he needs to get into a program. If he doesn’t, he will spend the rest of his life in orange. The community doesn’t want that, but that’s what will happen.”

Defense attorney Jim Miller noted that Balentine still has time to serve in an Indiana prison plus a lengthy period of supervision.

For his part, Balentine said he wants to turn his life around.

“I’ve spent my entire time in Indiana defeating my addiction,” he said. “I want to become a productive citizen.”

Jordan Michael Hawkins, 28, of Decatur, pleaded guilty to possession of meth and was sentenced to five years’

Hawkins

probation, credit for 20 days already served, completion of the adult treatment court and $3,848 in fines and costs.

He also pleaded guilty to violating his probation from 2016 and 2017 possession of meth convictions and had his probation continued in both cases.  Judge Herman said he is keeping Hawkins on probation in those cases because the 2017 case carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison if he violates again.

In the current case, the incident occurred Sept. 25 at Hawkins’ residence in Decatur when meth and other items were found after a search.

Fitz told Hawkins that more jail and even prison could be in his future if he squanders this opportunity.

“At age 28, you have a serious drug problem,” he said. “We want you to get help, but if you don’t want help, we want you in prison. We want to instill hope but also fear.”

Fitz noted that Hawkins began using marijuana at age nine and meth at age 15.

“You have to decide what you want to do with your life,” he said. “Do you want to be in orange or a contributing member of society?”

Miller said Hawkins intends to get away from addiction if at all possible.

“I’m glad he’s been accepted into the adult treatment court and I think he can complete it successfully,” he said. “He then can use the tools he gains to make monumental changes in his life.”

Hawkins said he wants to go back to school and be a diesel mechanic.

Judge Herman said he was surprised that the prosecutor’s office agreed to probation and adult treatment court with Hawkins’ past record. He noted that without the prosecutor’s agreement, Hawkins would likely be going to prison.

“You have had nearly all the services we can offer,” the judge said. “It seems to me that you’re just saying what you need to do to not go to prison. It’s been nearly four years and we’re running out of patience with you dealing with your meth problem … This is your last opportunity.”

Herman noted that Hawkins has lost three jobs because of his drug addiction and needs to be serious in addressing his problems now.

“You need to be serious this time, you won’t have another opportunity,” he said. “My hope is that you’ll be serious. If you thumb your nose at it, I’ll have no choice but to send you to prison.”