CASSOPOLIS — A Dowagiac man with a drinking problem and a penchant for assaulting people at parties has one last opportunity to avoid prison.
On Friday in Cass County Circuit Court, Judge Michael Dodge handed Scott Barney, 27, a one-year jail term based on his no-contest plea to a felonious assault charge. Dodge made it clear that prison is in his future unless he solves his problem with alcohol, pointing to a similar offense Barney committed two years ago.
Prior to his sentencing, Cass Prosecutor Victor Fitz argued for a prison sentence, referring to Barney as a “thug,’’ “bully,’’ “public enemy’’ and “dangerous person.’’
“Many words can be used to describe Scott Barney and most of them are not good,’’ he said.
Both Fitz and Dodge recalled that in 2010, Barney was at a party where he drank heavily and threatened fellow party-goers with a handgun. Sentenced on three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, the punishment wasn’t enough to deter him from once again drinking heavily at a party two months ago and stabbing a friend, Carlton Hill.
After stabbing Hill, Fitz said Barney was so infuriated he chased him and attempted to stab him again. The prosecutor said Barney’s .24 blood alcohol level — three times the legal limit for drinking and driving — no doubt contributed to his actions.
James Jesse, Barney’s attorney, agreed his client has a drinking problem but asked for a local sentence. After Barney declined to comment, Dodge reminded him that attending parties while drinking and toting weapons amounts to “an explosive combination ... that leads to homicides.’’
Barney will receive credit for 62 days already served. Also, Dodge suspended the last 60 days of his sentence so he can undergo in-patient substance abuse treatment through the Salvation Army.
Not as fortunate Friday as Barney were Robert Shivers Jr., Frederick Wiles and Peter Smith, all of whom received prison sentences. For Shivers, 42, of Dowagiac, his 2- to 15-year term will mark his fourth trip to prison as he has been unable to kick a cocaine addiction.
Found with a small amount of cocaine in his possession when police stopped his car in Dowagiac five months ago, Shivers told Dodge he has reached out for help but it hasn’t been forthcoming. The judge said he’d prefer to be lenient but Shivers’ extensive record mandated a prison sentence.
“I wish I could do more to provide you with the help you need but ... you’ve got to do it yourself,’’ Dodge said.
Wiles, 38, of Edwardsburg, received a 6- to 40-year term for operating a meth lab and using and selling the drug. He, too, is returning to prison, having been sent there eight years ago on another meth charge.
Smith, 57, of Vandalia, also has a history involving meth and will serve a 5- to 30-year prison term. He agreed with Fitz’s assertion that he “got himself involved with a dance with the devil.’’
“This has cost me my home, job ... the love of my life ... and the respect of my friends,’’ he said. “From now on, I will walk away (from drugs) with the Lord’s help.’’
Staff writer Lou Mumford: