Teens sentenced to probation in Berrien County Court

Published 12:22 pm Monday, November 1, 2021

NILES – Two area teens were among those placed on probation in Berrien County Trial Court Monday. The teens will have the chance to keep felonies off their records.

A 17-year-old boy, of Niles, pleaded guilty to resisting and obstructing police and was placed on two years’ probation under the Holmes Youthful Training Act. He was given credit for one day in jail served, ordered to get his high school diploma and pay $258 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred Aug. 23 in Niles. The teen is a student in the Niles W-A-Y program. The felony will be kept off his record if he is successful on probation.

Defense attorney Carri Briseno said the defendant made a “very poor decision” to run from police.

“He got caught up in something and he was not making good choices,” she said.

“I want to apologize for my actions, I know I did wrong,” the 17-year-old said.

“This is tragic that you’re here,” Berrien County Trial Judge Sterling Schrock said. “It has to do with your thinking. If you’re not doing anything wrong, why run? If you were out past curfew, you’d just get a ticket. Apparently, you were in a place you shouldn’t have been and with people you shouldn’t have been with.”

“One of the biggest things I want you to understand is the importance of who you choose to be with,” the judge added. “It can be hard with so much peer pressure. You have to have the strength of character to say you have something else to do. You have to stand up for yourself.”

“It’s not easy, and I’m not suggesting that it’s easy, but being around the wrong people is one of the highest risks you have for getting involved in the criminal justice system,” he said. “I’m telling you we don’t want you here. … You need to slow down and think about what you’re doing.”

In another case, a Mishawaka teen pleaded guilty to receiving, concealing or possession of a stolen motor vehicle and was placed on two years’ probation under the Holmes Youthful Training Act. He was given credit for two days in jail already served and ordered to pay $258 in fines and costs. He must get his high school diploma.

The incident occurred Aug. 13 when he took his aunt’s car without her permission. The teen is a student at Mishawaka High School and a member of the wrestling team. His aunt spoke before the sentencing and asked for leniency. She said she was on vacation when her nephew took the car.

Judge Schrock took exception to the defendant’s statement that his actions were a “dumb mistake.”

“Do you think that’s the right term to use, that you just made a simple mistake like two plus two equals five?” he asked. “Stealing your aunt’s car was a choice. You showed really bad judgment and it was an intentional act.”

“You clearly have the ability, the integrity and the dedication in wrestling,” Judge Schrock told the teen. “You can use that drive to be successful if you use that in the rest of your life. If you’re just cruising, you’re not going anyplace. Take that dedication and use it as a motivator.”

“I don’t want to see you keep making bad decisions,” the judge added. “I don’t expect you to be perfect, but slow down and think about what you’re doing.”

In other sentencings, a husband and wife were sentenced as was a woman convicted of identity theft in taking money from her elderly father.

Waddell Smith, 42, of Niles, pleaded guilty to third-offense drunk driving and was sentenced to 28 months’ probation in the Swift and Sure program, 100 hours of community service, $2,383 in fines, costs and restitution and 150 days in jail with credit for 63 days served.

Smith can serve the rest of his sentence at the Twin County Probation Center. He must serve 120 days on tether after Twin County.

The incident occurred Aug. 31 in Niles.

Rochelle Ann Smith, of Silverbrook Avenue in Niles, pleaded guilty to resisting and obstructing police and domestic violence. She was placed on two years’ probation, given credit for two days served and ordered to pay $658 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred July 23 in Niles and involved an assault on her husband.

After Rochelle Smith asked for another chance because others were dependent on her, Judge Schrock asked her why she did not think about those who depend on her at the time of the incident.

“You have people relying on you, why are you behaving this way and why are not taking care of yourself to assist those who are relying on you?” he asked.

Arleen Fay Ward, of Niles, pleaded guilty to identity theft and was sentenced to credit for one day in jail, $958 in fines and costs and $4,050.96 in restitution.

The incident occurred July 13, 2020, after Ward took pension payments and got a credit card in the name of an elderly relative. She claimed that she used the money to care for her father but one of her brothers alleged that she was using the money to support a drug habit.