By NIKKI YOUNK
IRON MOUNTAIN - A former McDonald's worker will spend a minimum of 29 months in prison for an August 2012 incident in which he spit into a snack wrap and served it to a uniformed police officer.
Dalton Ursulean, 24, of Niagara, Wis. was sentenced Monday in Dickinson County Circuit Court on one felony count of placing harmful objects in food.
The maximum penalty for the charge is usually 10 years in prison, but Ursulean's habitual offender status increases the maximum penalty in this case to 20 years in prison.
During the sentencing hearing, attorneys for the prosecution and defense informed the court that Ursulean has tested positive for the infectious disease hepatitis C. The victim, who is an officer with the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center, has tested negative for the disease, they added.
Ursulean's attorney Geoffrey Sparks emphasized that his client was unaware of his infection until recently.
"He had no idea until the blood tests came back," he said. "He was very alarmed when he found out about it."
Sparks added that Ursulean now recognizes that his actions were "dumb and disgusting."
"He's made poor choices in his past, but he's also grown up," he said. "He now knows what it takes to succeed."
Sparks asked that Ursulean be sentenced to time already served. He has been incarcerated in the Dickinson County Jail for the past 347 days.
Dickinson County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Carl Downing acknowledged that as part of his plea deal with Ursulean, he agreed to not object to a county jail sentence.
However, Downing noted that Ursulean's actions were "vile and disgusting."
"It's something that any customer at any restaurant worries about," he said.
Downing added that the victim, who was not present at the sentencing hearing, has reported feeling "nauseating tremors" and a fear of blood-borne pathogens since the incident. The victim requested that Ursulean serve a lengthy jail sentence, said Downing.
When given a chance to address the court, Ursulean apologized to the victim, the court, and his family.
"I'm sorry for all this that's transpired here," he said. "I want to get out there and actually do right."
Judge Mary Barglind commended Ursulean for obtaining his GED while incarcerated and having plans to move away and go to college, but she had several concerns.
She pointed out that he has accumulated nine jail incidents since his initial incarceration nearly a year ago.
In addition, Judge Barglind felt that Ursulean's record of three felonies and six misdemeanors has shown that he cannot be properly rehabilitated by jail and probation.
Instead of going along with the attorneys' agreement for jail time, Judge Barglind decided to sentence Ursulean to a minimum of 29 months in prison.
She explained that the Michigan Department of Corrections' pre-sentence investigation in the matter called for a minimum sentence between 29 months and 85 months in prison. Since there was no legal basis to deviate from that recommendation, Judge Barglind did not allow a downward departure to county jail time.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.