Niles man gets prison time for extorting, touching minor

Published 1:57 pm Monday, June 3, 2024

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NILES — A Niles man is going to prison after being sentenced Monday in Berrien County Trial Court for inappropriately touching an underage girl and also extorting her about inappropriate pictures.


Richard Lee Tindall, 36, of Niles, pleaded guilty to extortion and second-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to concurrent terms of 10 years to 20 years and 86 months to 15 years respectively. He must register as a sex offender and pay $266 in fines and costs. He has credit for 185 days already served.

The incidents occurred starting in January, 2019 in Niles and involved inappropriate touching and threatening the victim when he got hold of pictures taken by someone else. Two other counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, possession of sexually abusive materials, use of a computer to commit a crime and tampering with evidence were dismissed.

“What he did was reprehensible,” Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Jerry Vigansky said. “Instead of protecting the victim, he inappropriately touched her and extorted her. What he did was totally despicable, he should be sentenced to the maximum possible.”

     Defense attorney Tat Parish had a different take on the case. He called nine or 10 years in prison “an awful long time” for someone who has never been to prison before. “

A nine year prison sentence is not likely to benefit anybody anywhere,” he said. “People are no better served by a nine year sentence than a four or five year sentence.”

Tindall said he wish he could take back his actions.

“This will be the first and last time this will ever happen,” he said.

Berrien County Trial Court Judge Jennifer Smith said she was struck by the letters she received supporting Tindall.

“They didn’t mention the victim,” she said.

“It was like she is not part of their lives anymore and they have written her off … Making her the villain doesn’t help your rehabilitation either.”

“This incident took her mother away from her because she chose to support and believe you and not her daughter,” the judge added. “That happens unfortunately all too often … This will continue to have a huge impact on the victim’s life.”

She acknowledged Parish’s argument about what the proper sentence should be and what number of years in prison is the right number of years, but said she felt it is important to remove Tindall from the community.