Local men sentenced to prison

Published 10:37 am Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

NILES — Two area men were sentenced to prison Monday in Berrien County Trial Court.

Dustin John Morgan, 28, pleaded guilty to possession of meth, resisting and obstructing police and retaining a financial transaction device without consent and was sentenced to 14 months to 10 years in prison for the meth charge and credit for 153 days served on the other charges.

He must pay $393.75 in fines, costs and restitution on the financial transaction device charge and a total of $248 in fines and costs for the other two charges.

Morgan also had his probation revoked from an earlier assault with a dangerous weapon conviction and given credit for 283 days served. He violated that probation by not showing up to the Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program as ordered.

The meth, resisting and obstructing and retaining a financial transaction device charges occurred Nov. 4 in Buchanan Township.

Defense attorney Carri Briseno acknowledged that Morgan had squandered past opportunities. She said he struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues.

Morgan apologized for his actions and asked to able to serve his sentence locally rather than in prison. “I think rehabilitation would help me more than prison,” he said. “I apologize for taking the opportunity I was given and squandering it.”

Berrien County Trial Judge Jennifer Smith said she was glad that Morgan recognized that he had squandered past opportunities and wants to get help now. “That would be good but I would have to take a giant leap of faith to believe you would do it,” she said. “You have been a complete failure on probation and I can’t in good conscience let you out.”

A Berrien Springs man who drove drunk last September was also sentenced to prison.

Rajiv Samuel Massey, 49, of Berrien Springs, pleaded guilty to third offense drunk driving and was sentenced to 12 months to five years in prison. He has credit for six days already served and must pay $480.46 in fines, costs and restitution.

The incident occurred Sept. 17, 2023 in Berrien Springs when employees at the McDonald’s restaurant observed him driving erratically after going through the drive-thru. His blood alcohol level was .195 and he has seven prior drunk driving convictions.

Defense attorney Trevor Maveal said that Massey lives just blocks from the restaurant where the incident happened and made the mistake of driving when he was drunk instead of walking to the location. He noted that Massey had been sober for more than a decade before this incident.

Maveal said Massey is going to counseling and hadn’t failed any sobriety tests while out on bond. He asked for a local jail sentence and noted that Massey has never gone to prison before.

Massey said he’s learning coping skills and is getting the tools he needs to keep from drinking in the future. “I can’t go back to drinking, it’s just not for me,” he said. “Unfortunately work pressures got to me and I stopped going to classes and lost sight of my sobriety.”

Judge Smith said that while she appreciated Massey’s statements about realizing the importance of maintaining his sobriety, she was concerned that he didn’t mention the danger he posed to the community with his actions.

“At this point, my concern for the safety of the community has to override any concern about you,” she said. “At some point we have to transition from giving you an opportunity to protecting the community. Most accidents occur within a mile, it really doesn’t matter how far you drove.”

“You were driving erratic enough that the people at McDonald’s called the police,” she added. “You made a poor choice that day to drive instead of walk. Given the number of times you’ve been before the court, you should have realized before this that you were slipping before you ended up driving.”

“There’s a lot to consider,” she added. “I don’t want you to lose your life or your home but I have to consider the fact you’ve been given multiple opportunities on multiple occasions and here we are. I believe that community protection is important.”

A Niles man who shot at firefighters with a BB gun was given probation and jail.

Charles Lamont Dortch, 35, of Niles, pleaded guilty to attempted assault with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to two years probation, 20 days in jail with credit for two days served and $658 in fines and costs.

He also received a concurrent 10 day jail term for contempt of court for violating his bond conditions earlier this year when he drank alcohol after being ordered not to.

The incident occurred Jan. 8 in Niles when he shot a BB gun at firefighters in Niles.

“He was having a bad day and he allowed himself to react inappropriately,” Briseno said. “He’s remorseful about his actions. I think probation is appropriate, he could benefit from learning the skills to react appropriately.”

Dortch apologized and acknowledged that something bad could have happened. He said he’s going to counseling and wants the chance to prove himself.

“You’re absolutely correct, something bad could have happened,” Judge Smith said. “You knew it wasn’t a firearm but the other person didn’t and they could have reacted and shot you. Also there’s absolutely no justification for your actions, the person did nothing to deserve what you did.”

In other sentencings:

  • Kenneth James Anderson, 33, of South Bend, pleaded guilty to possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle and was sentenced to eight days in jail with credit for three days served and $258 in fines and costs. The incident occurred Sept. 23, 2023 in Niles.
  • Dorian James Boatright, 26, of South Bend, pleaded guilty to third degree home invasion and aggravated domestic violence and was sentenced to two years probation, credit for 73 days served and $708 in fines and costs. The incident occurred Dec. 19, 2023 in Buchanan.
  • Michael Robert Hemminger, 65, pleaded guilty to breaking and entering a building and was sentenced to credit for 273 days served and $443 in fines, costs and restitution. The incident occurred May 21, 2023 at the First Presbyterian Church in Niles.
  • Nicholas Ryan Manson, 39, of Fort Wayne, pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon and operating under the influence of drugs and was sentenced to two years probation, credit for 111 days served and $1,718 in fines and costs. The incident occurred Oct. 28, 2023 in Buchanan.
  • William Scott Watson, 22, of LaPorte, pleaded guilty to attempted carrying a concealed weapon in a motor vehicle and was sentenced to two years probation under the Holmes Youthful Training Act, credit for one day served, 150 hours of community service and $678 in fines and costs. He can keep the charge off his record if he is successful on probation. The incident occurred Sept. 30, 2023 in Niles.