Although a pre-sentence report had recommended Michael Knapp, 40, receive probation coupled with a year in jail, Judge Michael Dodge disagreed and sentenced Knapp to a 46-month to 15-year prison term. He’ll receive credit for 110 days served.
Brian McKenzie, the farmer who was victimized by Knapp, said the offense isn’t new to him as he said he likely has had some $40,000 to $50,000 worth of copper taken from his irrigation equipment over the last four or five years.
What’s more, he has installed a $10,000 alarm system, he said, and his insurance premiums have increased by $5,000.
“I believe we need to send a message,’’ McKenzie said. “This is his fourth (felony) offense ... (but) he’s done this many times before.’’
Dale Blunier, Knapp’s court-appointed attorney, said Knapp stole scrap to support a drug habit. Knapp made no excuses for his actions, telling McKenzie, “I’d be mad, too.’’
McKenzie said his alarm system sent a signal that irrigation equipment was being damaged the night of Dec. 26. He said he found several of the lines cut when he approached Knapp, and Knapp fled in his car, eventually shaking off McKenzie after a pursuit of several miles at speeds of 90 miles per hour.
Dodge said Knapp plowed through a boundary fence to get away but an alert Cassopolis village patrol officer spotted the car and pulled it over.
Also today, Carroll Mead III, 39, of Niles, was sentenced to an 18-month to 20-year prison term after entering a guilty plea to meth possession charges as a multiple offender. Mead told Dodge he needs help.
“I associated with the wrong people, and I knew better,’’ he said.
One of those he associated with was Benjamin Ballge, 37, of Edwardsburg, who was expected to get a sentence similar to Mead’s based on their remarkably similar records. However, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Frank Machnik withdrew his office’s plea offer and it appears now Ballge will stand trial.
Sentenced to probation and the county jail for a year, although part could be served on work release, was Christopher Beebe, 50, a Dowagiac resident who in December picked up his eighth drunken-driving offense. He was so calm about it, Machnik said, that he was smoking a cigarette as rescue personnel tried to free him from the rollover accident. Dodge said it was to his credit, however, that he hadn’t had a DUI in the previous eight years.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: