Niles man headed to prison on assault charges

NILES – A Niles man is going back to prison after being sentenced Tuesday in Berrien County Trial Court.

Timothy Lee Helms, 33, of Niles, pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to 14 months to four years in prison. He has no credit for time served because he is currently on parole.

The current incident occurred April 28 when he assaulted his former girlfriend with a baseball bat. A charge of third-offense domestic violence was dismissed as part of the plea agreement, Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Jerry Vigansky said.

Helms is on parole from a 2013 conviction for uttering and publishing. He received an 18-month prison sentence for that offense and was released from prison April 23, 2019, and has been on parole since then.

Vigansky said the current prison sentence for assault with a dangerous weapon will be consecutive to any sentence Helms receives for violating his parole.

Helms’ past record also includes a November 2011 conviction for false pretenses over $200 and less than $1,000. He received a probation sentence in that case and was later discharged from probation for violating the probation terms.

Tuesday’s court proceedings were again done virtually as has been the case for two months during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The Michigan Supreme Court ordered all state courts to restrict in-person services in March and has since provided directions for courts to re-open in a four-phase approach to full capacity.

Berrien County Trial Court Administrator Carrie Smietanka-Haney said last week that the county is in the process of finalizing their phase one plan to re-open more services to the public. In the meantime, many proceedings are being done virtually or have been postponed to a later date.

The trial court in Berrien County has put a number of services online in recent weeks. People can visit the trial court page on the berriencounty.org website to request videos of court proceedings, view court dockets and find other online services.