By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (September 12, 2016) – Repeat offenders were sent a consistent message in the 266th Judicial District Court on Monday. Two individuals with a history of illicit drug use were sent to prison after previously being given a chance at probation.
For Lita Mills, 22, the sentence likely means her first child will be born behind bars. She plead guilty to violating the terms of a 2013 probationary sentence, but rather than reaching a punishment agreement with the prosecutor’s office, she asked District Judge Jason Cashon to assess punishment.
Cashon credited the testimony of several character witnesses with saving her from the maximum sentence.
“I am convinced by the bulk of testimony there is no further need for drug treatment,” Cashon said. “Were it not for the positive remarks, you would be going to state jail for 24 months, but I will reduce your sentence to six months.”
A list of witnesses presented by defense attorney Angie Hatley included Mills’ best friend of about six years; her mother; and employees of Summer Sky Treatment Center, where the defendant’s mother is employed. Each of the witnesses testified that although her life was out of control prior to pregnancy, she has since stopped using drugs. They also said sending her to prison would most likely cause Mills to slip into depression, posing a threat to her physical health and mental well-being.
When Mills was arrested in Tarrant County in June, she was found in possession of a meth pipe and Xanax. Mills admitted in court she was riding in the car with a friend. That friend was called one of the biggest drug dealers in Erath County by the state’s only witness, a probation officer.
That individual, Thomas Quentin Whitis, 42, is currently confined in the Erath County Jail on a trio of unrelated charges from July including possession of drugs and manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance.
The probation officer also testified she couldn’t verify Mills is currently drug free. The defendant’s list of probation violations included failure to report to required monthly meetings and drug screenings at community supervision since April. The probation officer testified about two failed drug tests early last year and also said Mills had not paid fees that are required.
When she was questioned by Assistant District Attorney Jett Smith Monday, Mills wouldn’t give the names of her drug dealers in the open court.
“I don’t feel comfortable doing that,” Mills said.
Her unwillingness to cooperate led Smith to call Mills unrepentant during his closing arguments.
“The fact that she won’t name her drug dealer shows a lack of recovery and unwillingness to distance herself from those people who sold her poison,” Smith said.
But, Mills was willing to submit to weekly drug tests and an additional 10 years of probation, if given another chance. Mills said the moment she learned she was pregnant, she stopped smoking cigarettes and consuming anything that posed a threat to her unborn child.
“I just don’t want my baby to suffer,” she said.
Mills also said that when she learned there was a warrant for her arrest, she turned herself over to police to resolve her legal issues as quickly as possible.
“I don’t want my baby to be born in jail,” she said.
While that may now be unavoidable, Mills should be released from confinement soon after childbirth. Her due date is February 21.
Following the sentence, the defendant’s mother was outwardly emotional, wailing from the courtroom gallery and saying the local justice system didn’t care she had been clean since learning she was pregnant
District Attorney Alan Nash said he could rest assured the child would be born in a prison rather than in the free world, exposed to methamphetamine.
Smith said Mendoza was placed on probation in January 2013 for manufacturing or delivery of drugs and possession of a controlled substance. His probation was revoked after being arrested for driving while intoxicated.
“He also admitted to using controlled substances and alcohol,” Smith said. “As a result of that, his probation was revoked and he is now incarcerated.”