Niles man who caused three-vehicle crash while drunk driving avoids prison time

Published 5:00 am Saturday, September 30, 2023

CASSOPOLIS — A Niles man who caused a three vehicle crash when he drove drunk on M-51 last December is getting the chance to stay out of prison.

Richard Lee Tindall, 36, of Oak Street in Niles, pleaded guilty to third offense drunk driving and was sentenced under delayed sentencing provisions to 30 days in jail with credit for six days served, $2,408 in fines and costs and $3,709 in restitution.

        The final sentencing was delayed for 12 months to see if Tindall can comply with probationary terms including getting substance abuse and mental health assessments and treatment. If he is successful, the charge will be reduced from third offense drunk driving which is a felony to second offense drunk driving which is a misdemeanor.

        The incident occurred Dec. 14, 2022 on M-51 near Pokagon Highway in Pokagon Township.

Tindall passed a line of southbound cars and hit a northbound vehicle when he couldn’t get back into his lane. That vehicle then hit another vehicle. Tindall also hit a light pole and a gas line. Tindall fled the scene. When finally arrested, his blood alcohol level was .30, nearly four times the legal limit.

“This is actually your fourth drunk driving conviction, you’re lucky you’re not going to prison for vehicular manslaughter,” Cass County Circuit Judge Mark Herman said. “You could have killed somebody with a few feet difference in impact. The first driver was severely impacted by your foolish and reckless actions on that date.”

“The callousness of your actions on that night concern the court,” Judge Herman added. “I find it amazing that you ran from the scene making the statement that you had children and you didn’t have the common decency to check on the other vehicles … If your children were hurt and the person had fled the scene, you would want somebody hung from the highest tree.”

“Your guidelines call for a minimum sentence of 38 months in prison and when I look at your callous disregard, I think you deserve every day of it but we have an agreement in place to delay the sentencing,” the judge said. “You have the opportunity of a lifetime today … but if you violate you can expect prison plain and simple.”

“Your days of drinking and driving stop today or prison starts tomorrow,” he added. “… I’m sentencing you to 30 days in jail with credit for six days served because you need to have another dose of jail to appreciate what’s ahead of you and realize if you’re not compliant, it will be 38 months in prison.”

Tindall apologized for his actions and said the accident had changed him. “It could have taken someone else’s life or mine,” he said. “I have taken steps to get help.”