MADISON — A Battle Creek man who’s spent the past seven years in and out of jail was sentenced to prison on Thursday in Madison County District Court.

Justus Peltier, 25, was sentenced to 4 to 6 years in prison by Judge Mark Johnson following convictions for theft and attempted robbery stemming from an April incident in Madison.

Peltier, who initially faced six charges before agreeing to a plea deal in May, appeared alongside Madison County Public Defender Chelsey Hartner on Thursday. Charges of second-degree assault, terroristic threats, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and possession of methamphetamine were dropped during the plea agreement.

On April 9, just 29 days after he was released from prison on a previous charge, Peltier was found to be the perpetrator of an incident in which he demanded money from a Randolph man at knifepoint and later stole his vehicle.

Peltier, the victim and a couple of other males were driving around on the night of April 8 around Madison before Peltier perpetrated a dangerous situation overnight. The victim explained to authorities that at some point during the drive, Peltier threatened to make the victim give him all of his money or he would leave the victim in an abandoned area near Norfolk, but the victim refused.

Peltier then tried to force the victim out of the vehicle and threatened to kill him on multiple occasions if he didn’t comply. A scuffle ensued, resulting in the victim sustaining a cut with a box cutter knife in the upper right arm area.

The victim later agreed to go with Peltier to an ATM at a local business to withdraw money. Upon arriving at the business, the victim barricaded the door and told a clerk to call police, according to the pre-sentence investigation report.

Peltier then fled the scene and took off in the victim’s vehicle. He was spotted by authorities driving the stolen vehicle in the Newman Grove area a few hours later and was subsequently arrested. Video surveillance from the Madison business confirmed the victim’s account.

The victim sustained a cut on his right arm and also told authorities that Peltier had punched him in the back of the head.

Matthew Kiernan, deputy Madison County attorney, said in court that Peltier was already on probation for a previous conviction for which he was released from prison in March.

“The police reports in this case were certainly interesting,” Kiernan said. “The victim reports that he was assaulted, threats were made to his life, demands were made for money and there was use of a boxcutter. When he (the victim) finally managed to separate himself from the defendant in this case, the defendant drove away in the victim’s vehicle.”

Kiernan, per the plea agreement, recommended a prison term of 4 to 6 years for Peltier.

Hartner argued that while Peltier’s actions are inexcusable, his methamphetamine addiction is partly to blame. He first started getting into trouble with the law when he was 18 years old, Hartner said, and his most recent crimes have been associated with meth use.

Hartner indicated that Peltier would like to provide some means of support to his 6-year-old son. She asked Johnson to go along with the prosecution’s recommendation of 4 to 6 years in prison.

“He’s not very old yet. He’s got a lot of years ahead of them, and I don't think this is something that he wants to continue to do,” she said.

Peltier read a self-written letter in court, apologizing to his family, the court and the victim, as well as admitting his struggles with meth addiction.

“What happened the night I was arrested was a result of me continuing to use drugs,” he said. “I believe if I can receive treatment, I can stay out of trouble. … I can’t be with my son if I keep doing drugs and going to prison.”

During review of Nebraska Revised Statute 29-2260 before issuing Peltier’s sentence, Johnson indicated Peltier’s questionable criminal history, including numerous assaults and attempted assaults, assaults on an officer, criminal mischief, obstruction and resisting arrest.

“History would demonstrate that reoffense is highly likely to reoccur unless you take charge of your life,” Johnson said.

He then sentenced Peltier to a term of 4 to 6 years in the Nebraska Department of Corrections for attempted robbery, and a concurrent sentence of 18 to 24 months for theft by unlawful taking. He was given credit for 111 days served.

“Mr. Peltier, you seem like a reasonable individual, but as you indicate, your addiction makes you another person — even perhaps without the drugs, at least for some period,” Johnson said. “... The fact that you were on post-release supervision for only 29 days when this offense occurred indicates that rehabilitative efforts in the community would not be practical and would place society at risk.”

Johnson sentenced others for the following Thursday:

Possession of methamphetamine

— Thomas H. Goettsch-Cutsinger, 36, 800 W. Prospect Ave., 225 days in the Madison County Jail with credit for 21 days served, costs.

— Monte C. Sorrells, 35, Omaha, 12 months’ probation, 90 days in the Madison County Jail before probation ends with credit for 9 days served, costs.

Attempted possession of methamphetamine, false reporting

— Dustin D. Balsley, 40, Schuyler, 180 days in jail with credit for 39 days served, costs.

In other news

VALENTINE — The 26-year-old man accused of killing 52-year-old Ruth Wittmuss in August pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of first-degree murder and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony.