Local teen sentenced as adult for Niles carjacking

Published 1:06 pm Monday, October 25, 2021

NILES – A local teen being sentenced as an adult in Berrien County Trial Court will have the chance to stay out of prison.

The 16-year-old boy pleaded guilty to attempted unarmed robbery and was sentenced to three years’ probation, credit for 12 days already served, six months tether and $684.57 in fines, costs and restitution. He must also observe an 8 p.m. to 7:15 a.m. curfew.

The incident occurred Feb. 8 in the city when the defendant carjacked a car and robbed a woman in the city of Niles. The victim was left outside in the cold with bare feet and has suffered permanent frostbite injuries.

The teen has an extensive juvenile record and was waived to adult court in this case. A carjacking charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Berrien County Trial Judge Sterling Schrock placed the teen on probation despite sentencing guidelines that called for prison. Judge Schrock said he took the defendant’s youth as well as his progress in a juvenile detention program as reasons to depart below the guidelines.

“With your record, it’s not hard to find a reason to depart above 29 months in prison,” the judge said. “But your behavior has shown some progress. I’m also taking into consideration that you’re 16 years old. … You appeared to have changed your behavior during the programming you received, so I am willing to give you another chance.”

“You need to be recognizing and responsible for how you behave; no one else can do it,” he added. “We can impose consequences but ultimately it is up to you to make sure your behavior changes.”

“I hope you understand the implications of not following the rules,” the judge said. “You’re a young man, and you might think the rules are arbitrary, but youth who are successful are not running around at night unless they’re in sports. … I hope you see this as an opportunity and not punishment. If this was punishment, the handcuffs would be on you, and you’d be being transported to prison.”

Defense attorney Carri Briseno said the teen has made progress in the juvenile program he was in.

“He started off a little bit bumpy, but he ended with not just following all the rules but developing leadership skills. I’ve told him that if he violates his probation he will be subject to incarceration in the Berrien County jail, and he’s never been anywhere like that,” Briseno said.

Assistant Prosecutor David Saraceno said he felt a prison sentence was appropriate given the defendant’s juvenile history and the trauma inflicted on the victim.

“He appears to have turned things around recently but I’m not sure if probation is appropriate and whether he can follow through,” Saraceno said.

In another sentencing, a Van Buren County resident was sentenced to probation.

Jesus Gallegos Jr., 24, pleaded guilty to possession of meth and was sentenced to two years’ probation in the Swift & Sure Program, 120 days in jail with credit for five days served, completion of the Twin County Probation Program and $658 in fines and costs. He can serve the rest of his jail term at Twin County.

 

The incident occurred Aug. 12.  A dagger found in his vehicle was forfeited.

In other sentencings:

  • Tesla Marie Garmong pleaded guilty to attempted assault with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to two years’ probation, credit for 37 days served and $258 in fines and costs. The incident occurred March 28 and involved assaulting someone with her car.
  • Robert S. Palmer Jr., pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree retail fraud and was sentenced to credit for three days served and $698 in fines and costs. The incident occurred Aug. 11.

Jeramie Dean Robinson pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon and use of cocaine and was sentenced to two years’ probation, credit for two days served, weapons forfeited and $1,018 in fines and costs. The incident occurred July 15.