WICHITA FALLS, TX
Barry Anthony Willis Junior's sentencing took place Friday morning. He was accused of a felony offense of money laundering to which he pleaded not guilty to in July 2014. It went to trial Tuesday in Montague County and the jury found him guilty.
Willis' sentence could have been anywhere between parole and 20 years. Judge Jack McGough handed him 15 years behind bars.
Willis' attorney, Edward E. Castillo, says he was a little surprised at the length of the sentence but that Willis had previous felony convictions involving drugs and drug trafficking dating back to early 2003. Castillo says that was a big obstacle to overcome and feels that it affected the length of the sentence.
Montague Assistant District Attorney Kevin Henry says the sentence sends a message.
“What I hope for is that we get a message out to the community. To other people that might be thinking about committing this type of crime. We're saying that if you do this and you get caught you're going to get a substantial punishment.”
Court documents say Willis was a passenger in a car driven by Whitney Alexia Gonzalez that was stopped for speeding by D.P.S Troopers in July 2014.
During the traffic stop the trooper detected the smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle. He searched the car and found marijuana, less than 2 ounces, and $9,866.00 in cash.
Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations stepped in to assist in the investigation and Gonzalez admitted that a large portion of the cash was proceeds from prostitution. Based upon that and other evidence, investigators believe Willis and Gonzalez were transporting the proceeds of criminal activity.
Willis’ family and friends were at the sentencing today to support him and it was tense and emotional in the courtroom. Some family members expressed outrage at the sentence saying Willis did not receive a fair trial. Willis sat with his defense council as several of them took the stand as character witnesses. They praised Willis for his kindness and say he is a good person with a keen interest in education. A person who experienced hardship growing up but went back to school to pursue a college degree. His 15 year old son wept during questioning saying that Willis is a great father who is always there for him. Willis is due to graduate from Amarillo College in May with an Associate Degree in wind turbine programming.