Rep. Jewell Jones headed to Friday hearing after rejecting plea deal

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan Rep. Jewell Jones has rejected a plea agreement offered in his drunken driving case and instead will proceed Friday to a hearing where he will argue the case against him should be thrown out, his attorney said Monday. 

Lawyer Byron Nolen said he last week informed the Livingston County Prosecutor's Office of the Inkster Democrat's rejection of the offer. 

Nolen said the offer was "unfair" and required Jones to plead to too many counts, including misdemeanors that would be on his record for years. 

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.

The rejection came a couple weeks after Jones, upon the reinstatement of his bond, was offered the chance to plead to four misdemeanors and two felony charges and have the rest of his charges dismissed. 

Specifically, under the proposed agreement, Jones would be required to plead guilty to two counts of resisting and obstructing police, one count of operating while intoxicated, one count of possession of a weapon while intoxicated, one count of reckless driving and one count of escape of lawful custody. The prosecutor's office then would dismiss two other resisting and obstructing charges, one count of driving under the influence with a high blood alcohol content and two other higher-end escape charges. 

Part of the deal would have allowed Jones to make use of a youth sentencing program that, upon successful completion of probation, would allow for his two felony charges to  show up as dismissals instead of convictions. 

Jones was arrested April 6 after his black Chevy Tahoe drifted in and out of lanes along Interstate 96 before pulling off the shoulder, 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.

Jones was taken into custody Sept. 14 after a third bond violation. On Sept. 15, 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 on entry to the jail.

His bond was reinstated and the plea agreement offered on Nov. 15. 

On Friday, Nolen said he will argue that Jones should not have been arrested in the first place nor should police have been allowed to take a sample of his blood to determine intoxication. 

Nolen argued police had no right to arrest Jones, who was speaking to EMS workers when police arrived at the scene. 

"What had he done that you saw with your own two eyes that prompted arrest?” Nolen said. "That’s the question of our argument. I think the case law is in our favor. But it’s ultimately up to the judge.”

The lawyer also argued that police had no reason to believe that Jones was the driver that day, an assumption that served as part of the basis for a search warrant for a blood sample for alcohol testing.