Michigan House Democrats

Michigan state Rep. Jewell Jones is facing an array of criminal charges, including two new serious felonies after he was found in possession of a handcuff key after he was arrested. There is little basis for much sympathy for Jones who has shown little regard for the criminal code in his past conduct. However, I have a serious concern over the new charges brought down after the key discovery.

Jones, 26, was arrested for allegedly violating his bond for the third time after driving into a ditch. A blood test found his BAC was more than twice the legal limit.  He was already fitted with an ankle tether that registered alcohol in his system in violation of this bond on three separate occasions.

Police officers said that Jones name dropped Gov. Gretchen Whitmer when they attempted to capture his intake photo without a face mask: “You know what? Big Gretch is the homie.”

After his arrest, Jones changed into prison garb but, as he walked away, guards heard a clinking and found a key on the bottom of his foot.

He was just arraigned this week on two new charges: attempting to escape custody while awaiting a felony trial and bringing a weapon into jail.

Notably, before this incident, Jones was facing charges for resisting arrest, operating a motor vehicle with high blood alcohol content, operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, possession of a weapon under the influence of alcohol and reckless driving. Those charges could bring a couple years in prison. The new charges could easily double that sentence. The weapons charge is a four-year felony while the escape attempt is punishable by up to five years in prison.

One can debate the first charge since a handcuff key would not unlock a prison door and might not work on prison shackles.  However, the prosecutors essentially are arguing that, while it may not be a smart attempt, it was clearly an attempt to escape from handcuffs and, by extension, custody.

Even if this first charge is valid, the second charge is deeply concerning. There is no indication of a firearm being introduced in prison and officials are quoted in articles as saying that the key could have been used to harm guards.  It is not clear if that is the theory for the second charge. If so, it should be rejected as too attenuated to support a charge.

Since he was already charged for the handgun found in his car after the accident, this is a new charge and a different “weapon.”  The charge is described as “bringing any item that may be used to injure an individual or assist in escape.” The attempted escape charge is challenging enough, but the key itself should not be the basis for a weapons charge in my view. It is not only redundant with the other charge but it would make any items that could be used to escape into a potential weapon.


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