U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
District of Minnesota
District of Minnesota
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
B. Todd Jones, United States Attorney
Contact: Jeanne F. Cooney, Director of Community Relations
Another Armed Career Criminal Pleads Guilty as Part of Project Exile Minneapolis
MINNEAPOLIS — Yesterday in federal court, a 46–year–old Minneapolis felon pleaded guilty to possessing a .44 magnum revolver. Michael Edward Willis pleaded guilty to one count of being an armed career criminal in possession of a firearm. Willis, who was indicted on January 11, 2011, entered his plea before United States District Court Judge David S. Doty.
In his plea agreement, Willis admitted possessing the revolver on October 19, 2010. At approximately 3 a.m., Willis admitted robbing a woman at gunpoint while she was sitting in her car in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Minneapolis. Willis approached the driver’s side of the vehicle, pointed the gun at her and demanded the woman’s purse and iPhone. After receiving the items, Willis fled on foot.
In addition, Willis admitted that at 4:50 a.m. on October 19, he robbed a man at gunpoint while the man was sitting in his car at a White Castle parking lot in Minneapolis. Willis approached the man, asked for directions and then pointed the gun at the man’s face. Willis admitted asking the man for his wallet.
Because he is a felon, Willis cannot possess firearms or ammunition at any time. His prior convictions include robbery in Michigan in 1985, first–degree burglary in Wright County, Minnesota, in 2006, and robbery in Dakota County, Minnesota, in 2008. Since at least three of those offenses were crimes of violence or serious drug crimes, Willis is now subject to the federal armed career criminal statute, which mandates a 15–year minimum prison sentence if he is convicted of the charge presently levied against him. Willis faces a potential maximum penalty of life in prison. Judge Doty will determine his sentence at a future hearing, yet to be scheduled. This case is the result of an investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives–Violent Crime Impact Team. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly M. Hare.
Willis was charged federally through Project Exile Minneapolis. That law enforcement initiative was launched on July 22, 2010, as part of a City–wide effort to reduce gun violence. Through Project Exile, the Minneapolis Police Department and the ATF work together to apprehend serial criminals for violations of gun laws. Then, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office teams up with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine where those offenders will most effectively be prosecuted – state or federal court. Those determinations are based on the offenders’ criminal histories and current charges, among other factors. To date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has brought charges against more than a dozen serious habitual criminals through Project Exile Minneapolis.