Downtown Niles purse-snatcher pleads guilty

Published 7:05 pm Monday, March 27, 2023

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NILES — The man who snatched a purse and knocked a woman down outside a downtown Niles church has pleaded guilty to a charge of unarmed robbery. 

Antoine Lamar Dallas, 33, of South Bend, was in Berrien County Trial Court Monday afternoon for a status conference when he agreed to plead guilty. He had been set to go to trial next month on the unarmed robbery charge as well as other charges of stealing or retaining a financial transaction device and being a habitual offender. 

Monday, Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Kate Arnold and defense attorney Kaitlin Locke put the plea agreement on the record. In exchange for pleading guilty to unarmed robbery, the other two charges will be dropped. 

Dallas is scheduled to be sentenced June 5 at 8:30 a.m. in Berrien County Trial Court. The unarmed robbery charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and Locke said 

The purse snatching took place outside of the New Journey United Methodist Church at Third and Cedar Streets on April 14, 2022. Dallas was riding a bike past the church and grabbed the purse of an 80 year old woman. She fell down in the incident. Dallas jumped off his bike and struggled with the woman to get the purse. He then rode off on the bike. 

The incident made local news last spring as police released a surveillance tape of the incident in hopes of identifying her assailant. Dallas was eventually arrested after police tested his shoe that had fallen off in the struggle and DNA testing by the Michigan State Police identified him as the suspect. 

The police report of the incident noted that Dallas used the victim’s credit card multiple times after the incident. He ended up being arrested last December in Peru, Indiana. 

In court Monday, Berrien County Trial Judge Jennifer Smith accepted Dallas’ plea after he admitted knocking the woman down, taking her purse and riding away.  

Judge Smith revoked Dallas’ bond at Arnold’s request. Arnold noted that Dallas has a history of assaultive crimes in Indiana. His convictions there include five sentences for robbery dating back to 2009. 

Locke argued unsuccessfully to allow Dallas to remain free on bond. She noted that he had been free on a $10,000 10 percent bond since December with no problems. She said Dallas had agreed to plead guilty from the start, letting the process continue on to this point only so he could be there for his infant son who is still in the hospital. 

Judge Smith said she would have to find that Dallas posed not danger to the public to allow him to remain free. She said she wasn’t concerned as much about whether Dallas would show up for sentencing than whether he poses a danger to others. She noted his past convictions and prison sentences.