KINGMAN - Jessie Padilla could be enjoying life outside the prison walls, with his only requirement being monthly visits with his probation officer.
Instead, Padilla, 24, was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections for his role in a series of home invasions two years ago.
Padilla is the last of the six men charged in the case to be sentenced and ironically, the only one who didn't testify against Chad Weitherow, who is said to have suggested and coordinated the three home invasions and attacks on homeowners on March 15, 2009. Weitherow received 240 years in prison earlier this year for serving as the ringleader.
Early in the case, Padilla struck an agreement with the state to testify against his co-defendants in exchange for receiving probation. But before he testified he fled the state without telling prosecutors or even his own attorney.
He was located several months later, in June 2010, living in Portales, N.M., with a girl he met there. His lawyer, D'Arcy Downs-Vollbracht, said Thursday that during his time on the run, Padilla actually got two jobs and was staying out of trouble, which she said was unusual for a fugitive from the law.
She added that Padilla is one of the brightest clients she's ever had despite growing up in a situation where his mom died from drug addiction and his dad was sentenced to life in prison.
"He's just easily influenced by peer pressure," she said.
She added that even though he never testified, he continues to receive threats, which is why she'll seek protective custody for him in prison.
Mohave County Prosecutor Doug Camacho said the six men all attended a party earlier in the evening on the night of the crime spree. While it was 38-year-old Weitherow who brought up the idea of robbing people, Camacho said it was Padilla who provided the names and addresses of the victims who were targeted.
One of those homes was believed by Padilla to belong to a purported drug dealer, but the men went to the wrong house, Camacho said. Another of the homes, the one set on fire by Weitherow as police surrounded the home, belonged to Padilla's ex-girlfriend.