CASSOPOLIS — A Dowagiac man’s cooperation with authorities paid off Friday in Cass County Circuit Court.
Instead of receiving a minimum three-year prison term as recommended under sentencing guidelines, Nathan Buskirk, 21, received two years of probation based on his cooperation that preceded his guilty plea to methamphetamine and marijuana delivery offenses. Buskirk will serve the first year of his probation in the county jail.
Judge Michael Dodge said he decided to deviate from the guidelines after hearing Assistant Cass Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle argue that Buskirk’s testimony was instrumental in obtaining convictions of co-defendants. Dale Blunier, Buskirk’s court-appointed attorney, pointed out, too, that his client’s record was relatively clean, except for two juvenile court cases involving child molestation and cruelty to animals.
"He has done what he can to make up for what he’s done,’’ Blunier said.
Dodge said Buskirk on numerous occasions delivered meth and marijuana to confidential police informants last year. Despite his leniency, the judge cautioned Buskirk that he‘s still facing a 36- to 60-month prison sentence should he violate terms of his parole.
Also on Friday, a South Bend man already incarcerated at the Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon for the 2005 armed robbery of a Pizza Hut Restaurant in Berrien Springs had his 15-year term extended for attempting to extort money from his ex-girlfriend. Dodge added a minimum of 18 months to Kory Misiewicz’s stay.
According to Dodge, Misiewicz telephoned Kristi Frazier, a co-defendant in the Pizza Hut robbery, and threatened that he’d contact her parole officer unless she paid him $1,500 in weekly payments. His call was recorded by prison officials, prompting an investigation and Misiewicz’s guilty plea to the charge last month.
Misiewicz argued that Frazier, who received a 3- to 10-year sentence for her role as a lookout and getaway driver in the armed robbery, had owed him the money for a long time and that he had become increasingly upset by her refusal to pay him.
Also, Patricia Miller, 46, of Cassopolis, was sentenced to 12 months of probation, with the first two months to be served in the county jail, for attempted insurance fraud. Miller told Dodge she’s receiving chemotherapy treatments for pancreatic cancer but she was unable to document her illness, prompting Dodge to comment he’d re-evaluate his sentence should the jail nurse confirm her condition.
Regarding her offense, Dodge said Miller returned from a vacation on July 9, 2010, and picked up her dogs at a kennel. As she was attempting to park her car in her garage, however, the judge said one of the dogs got loose, causing Miller to hit another car parked in the garage and resulting in more than $11,000 damage to the autos and garage.
The next day, she took out an insurance policy, Dodge said, and on the following day she turned in the claim, lying that the accident occurred on July 11. Dodge said the insurance adjuster discovered the actual date of the accident by checking with a towing company.
Dodge pointed to Miller’s record the last 15 years of fraud, theft and marijuana offenses.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: