Inkster's Rep. Jones accused of sneaking handcuff key into jail, faces more charges

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Howell — Michigan state Rep. Jewell Jones was arraigned Wednesday on charges of bringing a weapon into a county jail and attempting to escape custody while awaiting trial on a felony. 

The Inkster Democrat is accused of having brought a handcuff key into the Livingston County jail after his Tuesday arrest following the revocation of his bond.

Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy called Jones "a real piece of work" and an "embarrassment to all elected officials," according to a Wednesday statement.

The weapons charge is a four-year felony, while the escape attempt is punishable by up to five years in prison. The weapons count for which Jones is charged includes bringing any item that may be used to injure an individual or assist in escape, Magistrate Jerry Sherwood said during Wednesday's hearing. 

Sherwood set Jones' bond at $100,000 cash or surety. The lawmaker is likely to remain in jail in a separate drunk driving case, where he was arrested Tuesday as the result of a third bond violation.

"Clearly this defendant has shown through his actions, through his decisions, through his choices, he has a total disregard to follow court orders, to conform his behaviors to the law, and he has a total disregard for public safety," Chief Assistant Prosecutor Carolyn Henry said at the hearing.

"He's a risk to our community," she continued. "He has shown this court that he is not going to follow terms and conditions of bond that are set by this court. He has shown through his actions that he will lie to the court, and he will continue to do whatever he wants to do."

Byron Nolen, former Inkster mayor and counsel for Jones, argued his client is not a flight risk and has showed up to all of his hearings so far, including three resulting from emergency motions.

Nolen said prior to the hearing that he had received a call from the prosecutor Wednesday regarding the allegations.

State Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, was taken into custody Tuesday after a Livingston County judge revoked his bond. He now is set to face additional charges after a jail key allegedly was found on him in the county jail, Jones' lawyer Byron Nolen said Wednesday.

"The allegations are that he snuck a handcuff key into the jail last night," Nolen said. "So, it sounds like he’s being charged with attempting to escape.”

Nolen said he's hopeful there will be video to show what occurred. He expressed  frustration with the allegations, since the key wouldn't have helped Jones while inside. Inmates typically are not handcuffed while inside the jail — just in transit, he said. 

Prosecutors have alleged the key was found when they were processing Jones, after he had changed into a jail-issued clothing, Nolen said.

"When he was walking, they heard something clank and, when they looked, there was a key taped to the bottom of his foot,” the lawyer said.​​

Murphy said there is no video of the incident.

"I believe he thinks the laws do not apply to him,” the sheriff said about Jones. “More than that, I am mad. Had the handcuff key ended in an injury to my staff or another inmate, I am not sure what I would have done; as my primary responsibility is the safety and security of my staff and inmates."

A condition of the bond set Wednesday is that Jones surrender all police equipment he may currently have as a member of Inkster's police reserve.

Jones was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon after his bond was revoked for a third violation of the conditions attached to his release. He was arrested in April on drunk  driving charges. 

Jones' most recent bond violation included alcohol use Sept. 3 that was registered on his tether and tampering with his tether on Sept. 6. He took responsibility for both violations during Tuesday's hearing. 

"This defendant’s actions — from his conduct during the charged crimes through each of the three bond violations — show that he believes that, as a person who writes our laws, that he is above our laws," Assistant Prosecutor Christine Richards said Tuesday. "There is also a very strong public perception that the defendant is getting special treatment because of his position.”

Jones was arrested April 6 after his black Chevy Tahoe drifted in and out of lanes along Interstate 96 before pulling off the shoulder and into a ditch, according to Michigan State Police reports. His blood alcohol content was 0.19, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08, according to the police report. 

He was accused of struggling with troopers after the crash and allegedly told officers that he'd call the governor and that he had oversight of the Michigan State Police budget.

In June, Jones was accused of misrepresenting the circumstances surrounding military orders that prevented him from getting his court-ordered drug and alcohol testing. Instead of being at training with the Michigan National Guard at Camp Grayling, as he represented to the court, Jones tagged himself on Facebook as being at Planet Fitness in Wayne. Legislative records showed was in Lansing for committee meetings.

In July, Jones was fined $1,000 for a bond violation in which he failed to pay the fee to keep his alcohol monitor tethering on.