Niles men get prison time for meth dealing

Published 12:51 pm Monday, March 13, 2023

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NILES — A Niles man was sentenced to prison on drug charges Monday in Berrien County Trial Court. 

Neil Courtney Bennett, 51, of Niles, pleaded guilty to two counts of delivery/manufacture of methamphetamines and one count of resisting and obstructing police and was sentenced to two concurrent terms of seven years to 20 years in prison and one concurrent term of 18 months to two years in prison. He must pay a total of $334 in fines and costs. 

Bennett has no credit for time served as he was on parole when he was arrested on these charges. These sentences are concurrent with each other but consecutive to any sentence he may get for violating his parole. 

The current incident occurred Dec. 21 in Niles when he was arrested by the Southwest Drug Enforcement Team. 

He was paroled Aug. 2, 2022 from an April 19, 2021 prison sentence for possession of meth. His past record also includes a 2004 prison sentence for delivery/manufacture of meth, a 1997 prison sentence for attempted uttering and publishing and a 2003 probation sentence for delivery/manufacture of narcotics. 

Defense attorney Scott Sanford argued unsuccessfully for a lower prison sentence. He said that delivery/manufacture of meth charges should be treated similar to how delivery/manufacture of heroin or fentanyl are.  

He noted that Bennett’s sentencing guidelines would have been 29 to 57 months rather than 84 to 140 months if it had been heroin or fentanyl. “Other drugs are scored differently even though they are just as deadly,” he said. 

Bennett apologized for his actions.

“I’m not going to downplay the fact that I was out selling drugs and I want to apologize to the officers for running when they tried to arrest me,” he said. “I got counseling when I was in prison before but I had no place to go when I was released and I didn’t hear from my parole officer for four months.” 

Berrien County Trial Judge Jennifer Smith said while she understood Sanford’s arguments about how different drugs are treated under the law, meth is a dangerous drug and it wasn’t the only reason why Bennett’s sentencing guidelines were so high.  

“You have a history of prior behavior of this type,” she said. “You also have some responsibility for what you do when you get out.”