Niles man gets prison time for setting apartment building on fire

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023

NILES — A Niles man who tried to burn down a local apartment building three years ago was sentenced to prison Thursday in Berrien County Trial Court.



Askia Ismail-Raheem Singleton, 46, of Niles, pleaded guilty to second degree arson and was sentenced to 50 months to 20 years in prison. He has credit for 1,008 days already served and must pay $258 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred Dec. 1, 2020 in Niles Township. The damage from the fire caused one family to lose all their belongings, according to statements made in court.

Singleton refused to leave the holding cell in the Niles courthouse and was sentenced in absentia.

Defense attorney Carri Briseno noted that Singleton had been referred twice for mental competency because of his schizophrenia and received treatment before being found competent. She said his family is concerned about his future after he gets out of prison.

Berrien County Trial Judge Jennifer Smith said Singleton had created a dangerous situation with his actions to set fire to the building. “He may have been targeting his neighbors,” she said. “He created an extremely dangerous situation for everybody and one family lost their belongings and their place to live.”

“The court is certainly concerned about the future danger to the community,” she added. “I hope he gets the help he needs but the protection of the community is more important.”