Drunk driver sentenced to probation

CASSOPOLIS — A Dowagiac man who drove drunk last year was sentenced Friday to probation and jail in Cass County Circuit Court.

Dan Nothdruft, 60, of M-62 West in Dowagiac, pleaded guilty to third offense drunk driving and was sentenced to three years’ probation, 30 days in jail with credit for two days served, 180 days tether, 480 hours of community service and $3,278 in fines, costs and restitution. His license was revoked.

The incident occurred Oct. 24, 2019, near the intersection of Peavine and Dewey streets in Pokagon Township near Dowagiac. Nothdruft has four prior drunk driving convictions. A separate charge of operating with a high blood alcohol level from this incident was dismissed.

Police witnessed him driving over the center line of the highway and stopped him, Cass County Circuit Judge Mark Herman said. Nothdruft’s blood alcohol level was found to be .17, which is more than twice the legal limit.

“At the end of the day, it’s not a complicated formula,” said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. “He started drinking alcohol at age 12, and then he started using marijuana, opiates and cocaine. It’s sad; he was involved in the military, and he’s been a hard worker, but a .17 blood alcohol level endangers the public. If he’s going to drink, he shouldn’t drive. He’s going to kill somebody someday if he doesn’t watch out. The bottom line is that he’s really lucky he has a wife who cares for him. It’s a full project taking him on.”

While Fitz asked for a sentence of a year in jail, defense attorney James Miller noted that Nothdruft has significant health issues and has avoided criminal activity for the most part over the last several years.

Judge Herman noted that he will reserve on additional jail besides the mandatory 30 days required by law.

“If you violate your probation, I will impose a lengthier jail sentence,” he said. 

A Dowagiac woman has the chance to keep a drug conviction off her record.

Shyann Sweet, 23, of East Riverside Drive in Dowagiac, pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamines and was sentenced to two years’ probation under the 7411 statute, 131 days in jail with credit for 41 days already served and $2,328 in fines and costs. She can serve the last 90 days of her jail term on tether.

The incident occurred May 30 at a residence in Dowagiac where police found her in possession of methamphetamines.

“She has squandered a lot of opportunities,” Fitz said. “She’s 23 years old, an adult and she has a monkey on her back with her addiction. She didn’t finish high school, she started using marijuana at age 10 and alcohol at age 16. … These are bad decisions after bad decisions after bad decisions.”

“The bad thing is that she’s 23 and done a lot of foolish things but the good thing is she can turn the sour into a sweet opportunity,” he added. “That’s the beauty of being young, you can make mistakes and learn from it. She has a life-long challenge with her drug addiction. If she doesn’t get hold of it now, she will be wearing orange for the rest of her life.”

Sweet said the last five weeks she has spent in jail has been an eye opener for her.

“I have a chance to turn my life around,” she said. “I’ve lost a lot in the last year and I don’t want to lose more. I want to get back to a sober life.”

Judge Herman said he has concerns that Sweet can successfully complete her probation considering she failed to complete a family treatment court program previously.

“If you violate your probation, it will give you more time to open [your] eyes up,” he said. “We’re looking forward to get you back on track. Let’s not see you in orange any more.”

An Oakland County man who stole a cross bow from Hale’s Hardware in Dowagiac was sentenced to probation.

Joshua Orawiec, 39, of Keego Harbor, Michigan, and formerly of Cass County, pleaded guilty to resisting and obstructing police and domestic violence in a 2019 case and second-degree retail fraud in a 2020 case.

He was sentenced to two years’ probation, credit for 25 days in jail already served and $1,848 in fines and costs in the 2019 case and credit for 15 days in jail, $625 in fines and costs and $1,649.99 in restitution in the second-degree retail fraud case. 

The 2019 incident occurred May 13, 2019, at a residence in Dowagiac. The 2020 incident occurred earlier this year in July when he took a cross bow from Hale’s Hardware. His past record includes six felonies and 18 misdemeanors. He is also on probation in Colorado and that case is being transferred to Cass County.

“I don’t like what you do and what you have been doing the last 10, 15, 20 years of your life and what you’re doing in my county,” Fitz said. “You did it in Utah, Colorado and now here. … This was intentional behavior. I hope you admit this was thievery. Your words mean nothing to me, what means something to me is your actions.”

Orawiec apologized for his actions.

“I just ask for the opportunity to prove it to you,” he said. “I’m ashamed of myself that it has come to this point, I hope I can rectify it.”

Judge Herman said he remembered dealing with Orawiec as a juvenile 26 years ago.

“As pointed out by the prosecutor, you do have a long, long history in the system but also a long, long history with substance abuse,” he said. “This is absolutely your last opportunity. If you don’t comply, the prosecutor will ask for prison, and the court will likely do that.”

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