Two felons sent to prison on weapons charges

Published 7:58 am Tuesday, April 5, 2022

NILES — A police chase in a stolen car led two men to prison in Berrien County Court Monday.

Dustin Zachary Hartline, 28, of South Bend, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a stolen vehicle and was sentenced to two concurrent prison terms of 22 months to five years. He has credit for 60 days served and must pay $298 in fines, costs and restitution.

The incident occurred Feb. 10 in Niles. This incident involved the theft of a car and being found with a weapon after being chased by police. He also faces state and federal charges in Indiana.

Hartline’s co-defendant received a shorter prison term for his role in the incident.

James Howard Nichols, 32, of Niles, pleaded guilty to possession of ammunition by a felon and was sentenced to 12 months to five years in prison with credit for 54 days served. He must pay $198 in fines and costs.

“I take full responsibility. I’m doing my best to be a better person but I’m still suffering from the poor choices I made,” Nichols said. “I’m the one who put the bullets in my pocket. I’m not proud to be here today. I wish I could go back in time and take back what I did.”

“You’re ignoring the elephant in the room,” Judge Schrock said. “It’s not just about the bullets found. You had a flare gun in your pocket that could be lethal. … Here’s the other elephant in the room — the other time you were here, you took off on tether.”

“You haven’t taken advantage of the opportunities given,” he added. “I’m looking at the big picture. You don’t comply with the supervisory rules you’re given. I cannot have convicted felons with a history of violence out on the streets with dangerous weapons.”