Ferris Student Guilty

Student found in snow bank testifies

by Published: Nov 13, 2013

Nine months after a Ferris stu­dent was found nearly dead in a snow bank, another Ferris stu­dent was found guilty for fur­nish­ing alco­hol to him.

Robert Calangelo, 22, of Saginaw, was found guilty in a bench trial in Mecosta County 77th District Court on Nov. 8. Nicholas Suttles, 19, of Grand Rapids, tes­ti­fied that Calangelo bought alco­hol for him in the evening hours of Feb. 14.

Suttles was dis­cov­ered by stu­dents walk­ing to their morn­ing classes on Feb. 15. After being out­side all night, he was extremely hypother­mic and had an irreg­u­lar heart­beat when police arrived on the scene at the 800 block of Division Avenue.

Following the inci­dent, Suttles, who no longer attends Ferris, was hos­pi­tal­ized for nearly three months and spent a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time in a coma. During his tes­ti­mony, he told the court about his minor head injury and other med­ical prob­lems, which resulted from being exposed to the cold.

Suttles described his rela­tion­ship with Calangelo as more acquain­tance than friend. Both lived in res­i­dence halls at the time of the incident.

“I knew him as the kid who bought my alco­hol,” Suttles said. “He was the kid I went to par­ties with.”

Officer Miguel Galley, of the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety, tes­ti­fied about the scene where Suttles was found in the snow bank. Law enforce­ment arrived at approx­i­mately 7:45 a.m.

“We found him blue and snow still on him,” Galley said. “He was unre­spon­sive and did not have a pulse at the time.”

Galley told the court about the inves­ti­ga­tion that ensued. He learned Suttles had been at a party.

“I was fact-gathering and try­ing to deter­mine where Suttles got the alco­hol,” he said.

Video sur­veil­lance from Bulldog Party Store showed Calangelo buy­ing alco­hol around 10 p.m. the night before Suttles was found in the snow bank, Galley added.

Former Ferris stu­dent Briena Bushong, 19, tes­ti­fied Calangelo had pur­chased the alco­hol for her and Suttles upon their request. Bushong, who also no longer attends Ferris, was dat­ing Suttles at the time of the incident.

According to Galley, Bushong lied to law enfo­ce­ment in the days fol­low­ing thein­ci­dent regard­ing who pro­vided Suttles with alcohol.

“I was afraid of get­ting some­one in trou­ble,” she said, acknowl­edg­ing her chang­ing accounts.

After mis­lead­ing police on sev­eral occa­sions, Bushong decided to tell the truth because she believes every­one should face the con­se­quences for what hap­pened to Suttles. Bushong was issued a minor in pos­ses­sion ticket in February.

In clos­ing argu­ments, Calangelo’s attor­ney Ellisia Schwartz argued Bushong’s tes­ti­mony couldn’t be trusted because the wit­ness had a his­tory of chang­ing her story.

“We actu­ally do not know the truth at this time,” Schwartz said. “She lied four times before and now she claims she is telling the truth today.”

District Court Judge Susan Grant said the pros­e­cu­tion met the bur­den of proof and ruled Calangelo guilty despite Bushong’s mul­ti­ple stories.

“I under­stand (Bushong) was cov­er­ing her tracks at the begin­ning of this case,” Grant said. “I can’t imag­ine what these young peo­ple must have gone through when they found out this young man was found dead or almost dead. I’m not sur­prised the tes­ti­mony changed, but I am con­vinced she was telling the truth today.”

Calangelo will be sen­tenced on Dec. 9 for the mis­de­meanor offense of fur­nish­ing alco­hol to a minor. He faces up to 60 days in jail with $1,000 in fines and com­mu­nity service.