Memphis, TN – James Wilkins, 30, has been sentenced to 102 months in federal prison for two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney announced the sentence today.
According to information presented in court, on December 8, 2017, a Memphis Police Department Officer executed a traffic stop on a gray Nissan Sentra. As the officer approached the vehicle, Wilkins was asked to lower his window; the officer could smell the strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. Wilkins, the driver and sole occupant, was asked to exit the vehicle. When he did so, officers saw a single loose pill on the driver’s seat, later identified as a 15mg Oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance.
While searching the vehicle, officers noticed a loose panel on the center console and found two firearms and magazines; a Smith & Wesson .380 caliber pistol loaded with seven rounds; a Smith & Wesson 9mm loaded with ten rounds and an extended .380 caliber magazine with several rounds of ammunition. The 9mm pistol was reported stolen during a 2017 car burglary in Memphis.
While out of jail on a bond for $100,000 for the December 8, 2017, arrest, Wilkins was again arrested on December 10, 2018. On that date, Memphis Police Officers were patrolling the high drug sales area of Maplewood/Chelsea, and they noticed a white Mazda 6 sedan in front of a residence on Maplewood St. Officers checked the vehicle’s registration and it came back expired as of July, 2017.
As officers approached the car they noticed a male, later identified as Wilkins, in the front passenger seat who kept reaching towards the center console and floorboard area. Law enforcement ordered Wilkins to put his hands up and exit the vehicle; instead he kept reaching towards the floorboard area. Wilkins finally complied and as he stepped out, Officers could see the chrome barrel of a Ruger .380 caliber pistol from the passenger side of the center console compartment. During transport, Wilkins told the Officers that he also had some marijuana on his person. Officers found 7 individually wrapped baggies containing marijuana.
Wilkins has two previous criminal convictions for felony drug offenses. As a result, he is prohibited by federal law from possession of firearms or ammunition.
On September 23, 2019, Wilkins pled guilty to being a convicted felon of firearms, and on September 27, 2019, Wilkins pled guilty to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
On July 28, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker sentenced Wilkins to 102 months in federal prison followed by 3 years supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.
U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said, “Convicted felons who possess firearms are an inherent danger to community, and this defendant continued to possess firearms and illegal narcotics despite his prior felony conviction history. There is and ought to be a significant consequence for such recidivist criminal behavior, and this is one more gun toter that will be removed from our streets. Gun Crime is Max Time.”
This case was investigated by the Memphis Police Department and Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force. The Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative is a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. In 2017, PSN was reinvigorated as part of the Justice Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wendy K. Cornejo and Michelle Kimbril-Parks and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Griffith prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.