Niles woman sentenced for drug possession

Published 12:30 pm Monday, November 30, 2020

NILES — A Niles woman is receiving probation following a narcotics possession case in Berrien County.

Heather Staggs, 32, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and was sentenced to two years’ probation Monday by Berrien County Trial Court Judge Sterling R. Schrock. Staggs’ driving privileges were suspended for 365 days and she was also sentenced to 30 days at TRI-CAP in Saginaw.

TRI-CAP is a correctional facility with a drug treatment component.  According to its website, residents are sentenced to TRI-CAP by the court system because they have not been successful in a community setting while on probation or parole and would benefit from a more structured environment. Intensive substance abuse counseling in a supervised residential atmosphere is available there.

“There are going to be people there who aren’t necessarily going to help you,” Schrock said. “Many people there are in the same situation that you’re in. “You’re going to have to fight for yourself to be successful in that program.”

Staggs, who previously pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine and operating/maintaining a lab involving methamphetamine in 2015, was also ordered to pay $598 in costs and fees.

“You’re right on the edge of a prison sentence,” Schrock said. “Keep that in mind as motivation to overcome your situation.”

In another sentencing, Travis Thornton, of Niles was sentenced to two years’ probation after pleading guilty to assault. Thornton received credit for 46 days in jail and was ordered to pay $658 in fees, in addition to $1,106 in trial court fees stemming from past charges.

Schrock ordered Thornton to apply with a jobs program in order to find steady employment.

According to his attorney, Kaitlin Locke, Thornton does some tree removal work through his friend’s business.

“Occasionally cutting down trees is not good enough,” Schrock said. “You need to get a steady job. A jobs program as a condition of your probation is more than appropriate.”

In a different sentencing, a 23-year old Indiana man pled guilty to third degree arson for setting fire to a portable toilet owned by Pride The Portable Toilet Company. They were sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service. The man was ordered to pay $754 in restitution to Pride and $658 in costs and fees.

With the guilty plea, the man was granted Holmes Youthful Trainee Act status. HYTA gives a young offender, ages 17 to 23, a chance to keep a criminal offense, including felonies, off his or her record.