Montgomery, Alabama: Richard Wilson, a Montgomery man, convicted of manslaughter in the death of his cousin, Johnny Waits, following an argument over popcorn, was sentenced to serve 48 years in prison, according to the district attorney.
Richard Wilson, 29, was charged with murder after his cousin, Johnny Waits, died from blunt force trauma to the head in 2016.
Police and fire medics on Jan. 8, 2016, responded to the 2300 block of Nettie Circle after receiving a report of a subject down. There, they located Waits, suffering from a blow to the head by a baseball bat. The victim died weeks later from his injury.
In October, a jury found Wilson guilty of manslaughter instead of murder, which he was indicted on.
According to a presentencing report filed by Wilson’s attorney, Joe Reed, the incident began over an argument about popcorn.
“Johnny Waits, Richard’s cousin, approached Richard and asked him for some of his popcorn,” Reed wrote. “When Richard refused him, Johnny Waits cursed him and put a knife to his stomach. Johnny then turned and walked away still cursing him.”
Waits then allegedly returned to where Wilson was sitting and put the knife to his neck “and said he’d kill him.”
“Johnny then punched Richard in his face and turned away from him and walked toward his car and went underneath the hood,” according to the court record. “About 10 seconds after Johnny hit Richard, Richard got a bat out of his car and walked toward Johnny where he was under the hood of his car and hit johnny in the shoulder/arm.”
Waits then came out from under the hood of the car with the knife still in his hand and tried to stab Wilson, according to the report. Waits also allegedly grabbed Wilson’s bat and tried to take it from him while swinging the knife.
“Richard pulled the bat away from Johnny and swung the bat at Johnny,” Reed wrote. “When Johnny ducked, the bat hit him in the head. Johnny died later from the injury.”
In the report, Reed tried to persuade the judge to give his client a maximum of 15 years in prison, with a possible split of 18 to 48 months.
Reed argued his client doesn’t have a violent background and has a history of selfless behavior. After graduating high school, the responsibility of the household fell on Wilson’s shoulders.
“Richard’s mother fell ill shortly after he graduated from high school,” Reed wrote. “As the man of the house, Richard selflessly put his family first to ensure their safety and happiness. Instead of attending college, he became the primary caretaker of his mother and through his efforts, Richard’s brother was allowed to attend Morehouse.”
Wilson routinely brings show horses to community events, a business he started about 10 years ago, according to Reed. He also coached softball and coached football at Bellingrath Middle school. He’s an active member of Union Chapel Amezion, where he has been the choir director, Reed wrote.
Wilson is financially responsible for his mother, children, girlfriend and several nieces and nephews that his mother adopted, according to Reed.
Wilson did serve two weeks in jail on a theft conviction in 2014, but complied with all the terms of his probation and would have completed it as ordered if it weren’t for the incident with Waits.
“His docile nature, coupled with his superior character does not show that he would be a violence member of the community if given a probationary sentence,” Reed wrote. “Richard is extremely remorseful that his actions were the proximate cause of his cousin’s death and contends that he will live with the weight of Mr. Waits death for the remainder of his life.”
Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick sentenced Wilson on Thursday in which the 48-year sentence was handed down.
“I am very pleased that justice was served in this case, and that this repeat criminal offender will be removed from our streets,” District Attorney Daryl Bailey said. “This senseless murder could have easily been avoided. It is a prime example of the often tragic consequences of not thinking before you react.”