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Drunken rioter gets probation; judge counsels him ‘not to pick up the bottle’

“You just don’t want to live your whole life being drunk and not knowing what you did,’’ Judge Christina Elmore tells 22-year-old Grand Rapids man.
Credit: Kent County Jail
Castaneda-Divas is among 22 people charged in the riot that overtook downtown Grand Rapids May 30-21

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A man who was drunk when he participated in the downtown Grand Rapids riot was warned about the perils of excessive drinking before the judge placed him on probation and ordered $265 in restitution.

“Drunk at the time,’’ Kent County Circuit Court Judge Christina Elmore said. “You just don’t want to live your whole life being drunk and not knowing what you did.’’

What Byron L. Castaneda-Divas did, police say, was participate in the May 30-31 riot, target a clothing store and then lie to investigators.

“It’s just better not to pick up the bottle in the first place,’’ Elmore said. “And then you’re not having conversations with judges about what to do with you.’’

The judge sentenced Castaneda-Divas to 173 days in jail, crediting him with the 173 days he has already served. Castaneda-Divas will also serve three years on probation.

Riot is punishable by up to 10 years in prison; sentencing guidelines called for a jail term of between zero and nine months. 

In addition to restitution, Elmore also ordered Castaneda-Divas to pay more than $1,200 in fines and court costs. 

“He had way too much to drink,’’ defense attorney Eric Stevens said. “He saw an opportunity to grab a shirt or a sweater outside one of the store windows. But he didn’t cause any of the damage.’’

Castaneda-Divas is one of 22 people charged in the May 30-31 riot that overtook downtown Grand Rapids following a protest to denounce the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. 

Seven defendants have pleaded guilty and four have been sentenced, including a juvenile. 

Castaneda-Divas celebrated his 22nd birthday last week in the Kent County Jail. At the time of his arrest last year, he listed an address in Grand Rapids.

In addition to the riot charge, Castaneda-Divas was charged with lying to police and breaking into F David Barney Clothiers, 125 Ottawa Avenue NW.

Stevens said Castaneda-Divas “realized what he did was wrong that night; he should have left that area.’’

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