State House removes Jewell Jones from committees after handcuff key charges

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — House leadership on Thursday removed Rep. Jewell Jones from all of his House committee assignments, citing an erosion of confidence "in his ability to conduct the people's work."

House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, said the removal comes amid "increasingly disruptive and distracting behavior" in the months since the Inkster Democrat's April arrest on drunk driving charges. 

State Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, right, talks to his co-attorney Byron Nolen before the start of his hearing on alleged bond violations at the Livingston County Judicial Center in Howell on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. Jones faces drunk driving charges in connection with an incident in April on Interstate 96.

Jones was taken into custody Tuesday after his third bond violation. On Wednesday, he was charged with two additional counts related to his alleged smuggling of a handcuff key into the jail a day earlier. The key is alleged to have been found taped to Jones' foot when he was being processed upon entry to the jail. 

"Action must be taken to protect the public's interest," Wentworth said. "I am now removing Rep. Jones from all House committees and encouraging him to use that time to make changes and take control of his actions."

Jones was removed from the Military, Veterans and Homeland Security and Regulatory Reform committees, a move that is usually used as a disciplinary measure within the chamber.

“The Michigan House of Representatives will continue to make sure he has access to every service and every bit of support we have to help him on his journey," Wentworth said. "I sincerely hope he finally takes advantage of those opportunities and gets the help he needs. The people he serves are counting on him to do so.” 

House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, commented briefly on Jones' removal Thursday, saying she was focused on making sure the lawmaker "has a fair pathway to accountability." 

“Rep. Jones is facing an increasing number of serious charges," Lasinski said in a statement. "Our priority is providing him with the support he needs to meet these challenges and stay healthy."

Jones' removal comes a day after Republican state Rep. Steve Marino of Harrison Township was removed from his committee assignments on allegations that he'd made "threats" toward a fellow lawmaker with whom he was in a relationship.

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 after he was alleged to have brought the key taped to his foot into the jail. 

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 the months since his arrest, Jones has been brought before the court on three bond violations. He is alleged to have misled the court about attending Michigan National Guard training then later checking in on social media at a Planet Fitness and attending legislative committee hearings. He is alleged to have failed to pay to keep his alcohol tether operating and to have consumed alcohol earlier this month, then tampering with his tether. 

In recent weeks, Jones took to social media appearing to offer exemptions to people who didn't want to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In July, Jones filed a campaign finance report that included spending $221 of his campaign money at a strip club in Dearborn for a March 8 "constituent meeting" to discuss "potential economic projects."

When he was elected to the Michigan House in 2016, the 21-year-old Jones made history when he became the youngest member elected to the Michigan House of Representatives. He is currently serving his third and last term in the Michigan House.