Niles teen sentenced to prison on sexual misconduct charges

CASSOPOLIS — A Niles youth is going to prison after being sentenced for third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Cass County Circuit Court Friday.

Taiten Leigh Polly, 19, of Niles, pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct against a victim age 13-15 and was sentenced to three to six years in prison with credit for three days already served. He must register as a sex offender and pay $758 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred April 28, 2019, at a home in the Niles area. A second charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

The victim in the case, who was 15 at the time, spoke before the sentencing. She said the crime had had a major impact on her life. She said Polly came to her home that night and forced himself on her even though she said no.

“You left a girl crying alone in her bed. You left me scared,” she said. “It felt surreal and like a bad dream.”

Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Hubbert said the incident clearly had a very significant impact on the victim and her family. He added that it was also highly concerning to him that Polly appeared to not take responsibility for his actions despite knowing that the victim was 15 at the time.

Defense attorney Sean Drew disagreed, saying that his client had been forthcoming and acknowledged his actions. 

“He felt that this was a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship,” Drew said. “He also acknowledged that he was aware of her age. That’s where the illegality arises.”

Drew argued unsuccessfully for a Holmes Youthful Training Act sentence which would have allowed Polly to potentially keep the conviction off his record. He noted that Polly is currently employed at French Paper Company, has finished his high school education and wants to go into the Marines.

Cass County Circuit Judge Mark Herman noted that a HYTA sentence was not possible with a CSC conviction and that he was bound by state law and the sentencing guidelines.

“You cuddled for a short time, and you claim it was mutual,” the judge said. “She said she said no. You were 18. She was 15, which is why her parents didn’t approve, but you continued the relationship. You seemed to indicate you didn’t fully understand what you were doing was wrong. I don’t agree. You knew it was wrong to sneak into room and have sex.”

Another Niles man was sentenced to prison for violating his probation from a 2018 probation sentence for drug and weapon convictions.

Diamond Ramone King, 34, of Niles, pleaded guilty to violating his 2018 probation and was sentenced to 28 months to 15 years in prison. His probation was revoked and he has credit for 457 days already served.

“You were sentenced to two years’ probation in May 2018,” Judge Herman said. “The court bent over backwards to provide services, but you absconded a number of times, you failed to complete the Twin County Probation program and allegedly assaulted someone there. You were arrested in January of this year in Berrien County for fleeing and eluding.”

A Cassopolis man was sentenced to probation and jail for possession of methamphetamines.

Brian Herthoge, 48, of Cassopolis, pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamines and was sentenced to three years’ probation and $3,128 in fines and costs. He is currently on parole from a January, 2018 prison sentence for possession of meth in Cass County.

The current incident occurred when social workers made a home call at his home in Cassopolis on Jan. 24, 2020, and found meth residue in the home.

“You have the ability to use your smarts to have a decent life, but you use drugs,” the judge said, noting Herthoge’s training as an electrician. “I, for one, don’t want an electrician doing drugs. You need to address your issues. You need to take it seriously. If I see you back, the only option is prison. I hope you take this opportunity and run with it.”

An Edwardsburg man was sentenced to probation and jail in three criminal files.

Kenneth Scott Stewart, 30, of Edwardsburg, pleaded guilty to three counts of possession of meth, possession of marijuana and possession of contraband in the jail and was sentenced to concurrent terms of two years’ probation, 365 days jail with credit for 210 days already served and fines and costs of $3,314.

The incidents occurred March 1, 2018, Oct. 1, 2019, and Nov. 17, 2019, at locations in the Edwardsburg area. He may serve the final 120 days of his jail term at the Twin County Probation Center.

“You are 30 years old and dug quite a hole for yourself,” Judge Herman said. “Fortunately for you, most these cases are not calculated in your prior record. if you come back, you will face substantial prison guidelines. You need to take this opportunity seriously.”

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