Jones gets two years' probation on drunken driving, resisting arrest convictions

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Howell — State Rep. Jewell Jones was sentenced Thursday to two years probation for an April drunk driving incident that led to a tussle with police along Interstate 96 in Livingston County.

Livingston County Circuit Judge Michael Hatty sentenced Jones to two years' probation with credit for 61 days served last fall as well as 100 hours of community service. The sentence came after a prosecutor lobbied for more jail time for the Inkster Democrat.

Hatty said he believed Jones proved he could comply with probation because of his relatively good behavior after he was released from jail in the fall. 

The plea agreement, Hatty said, "gets us to justice," holds Jones accountable and allows the 26-year-old to grow up and move past the incident. 

"I don't think any more jail is necessary," Hatty said. 

Jones said little during his sentencing, but after the hearing, he told reporters that he was thankful to the judge for giving him a second chance. He also plugged his new show on Detroit's 910 AM Radio Superstation.

"There's a lot of people in this same situation who are battling different things and battling the system and whatnot," Jones said. "I would like to make sure I take a more active role in helping some of those people out."

The third-term lawmaker noted that a Michigan State Police trooper's request that he serve more jail time "hurt my heart a have another brother want to see me behind bars." The Black trooper was one of those Jones wrestled with at the roadside the day of his arrest. 

"I hope one day that we're able to forge or foster a better environment amongst police and Black males because we should not have those kind of mentalities," Jones said.

Livingston County Assistant Prosecutor Christina Richards addresses the court as she reads a victim's impact statement from her laptop as state Rep. Jewell Jones, left foreground, and his attorney, Byron Nolen, listen in the courtroom of Judge Michael Hatty at Livingston County Circuit Court, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Howell.

Hatty's sentence came after the MSP trooper and Assistant Prosecutor Christina Richards urged the judge to sentence Jones to more jail time. Richards ticked off for the judge Jones' three bond violations, his sneaking of a handcuff key into jail, his repeated tardiness to court hearings, his "joke" of apology letters to the troopers he wrestled with and his unrepentant social media posts. 

Richards noted a particular post after his arrest in which Jones made and marketed T-shirts that said, "Big Gretch is the homie," quoting comments the lawmaker made while drunk during booking. 

"Unless he has a significant revelation, I do not believe he will be successful on HYTA probation," she said.

Jones last month pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors and two felony charges. The convictions include two felony counts of resisting and obstructing, operating while intoxicated, possession of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving and escape of lawful custody. 

His resisting and obstructing and weapons convictions are eligible for eventual dismissal under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which allows individuals up to the age of 25 to keep convictions private upon successful completion of sentencing and parole. 

As part of his plea agreement, additional charges against Jones were dismissed, including other resisting and obstructing counts, operating a motor vehicle with a high blood alcohol content, bringing a weapon into a county jail and an escape attempt. 

A charge of resisting and obstructing police — the most serious charge Jones faced — carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison. Misdemeanors typically are subject to a maximum of up to 93 days in 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 in Livingston County, 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 after his arrest, Jones had three bond violations, the third of which led to a 60-day jail stay. At the start of his jail stay, on Sept. 15, police found a handcuff key taped to Jones' foot leading to two additional charges related to the smuggling of the handcuff key into jail.