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'Whole show is video': Inkster lawmaker Jewell Jones ordered to stand trial

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Howell — State Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, will stand trial on multiple charges including drunken driving and resisting and obstructing police stemming from an April crash in Livingston County. 

Livingston County District Judge Daniel Bain made the ruling Wednesday following hours of arguments during Jones' preliminary examination.

Rep. Jewell Jones

A short video clip of the April 6 incident played during the proceeding made all the difference, the judge noted to a packed courtroom as he delivered his decision. 

“I think the whole show is the video — the video speaks for itself,” Bain said. “They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and this was.”

Jones is charged with resisting and obstructing a police officer; operating a vehicle with a high blood alcohol content; operating while intoxicated; reckless driving; and possession of a weapon while under the influence of alcohol.

The state lawmaker is accused of struggling with Michigan State Police troopers after a crash in which he was accused of driving drunk and allegedly told officers that he'd call the governor and that he had oversight of the MSP budget, according to a police report of the incident.

Bearing a license plate with "ELECTED" written across it, Jones' black Chevy Tahoe drifted erratically in and out of lanes and rumble strips along Interstate 96 on April 6 before he pulled off onto the shoulder and rolled into the ditch, according to the MSP report from his arrest.

Jones declined comment Wednesday after the hearing, referring a reporter to his defense attorney, Ali Hammoud.

Hammoud argued “the judge abused his discretion” in binding Jones over on a charge of resisting and obstructing a paramedic, who claims Jones put his hand on his chest.

“The evidence is thin, but it’s not unusual to see someone bound over for trial,” the attorney added. 

Hammoud previously told The Detroit News that his client should have never been arrested by police because reports of his "crash" were incorrect and there was no proof that Jones was intoxicated. He also has accused the police of using "excessive force" mistreating Jones. 

Jones' blood alcohol content, according to the police report, was 0.19. The legal driving limit is 0.08. 

According to police reports and testimony presented Wednesday, two troopers arriving at the scene of the crash said the 26-year-old Inkster Democrat was combative and attempted to flash a badge at police instead of his identification.

Eventually, Jones was taken to the ground, and a stun gun was used twice and then pepper spray as officers attempted to get him into handcuffs, the police report said. 

During the hearing, prosecutors noted that a woman in need of medical attention had been inside the vehicle with Jones when it crashed into the ditch on I-96, off Fowlerville Road. 

But when medics arrived at the scene, Assistant Livingston County Prosecutor Christina Richards said, they saw a strange sight — a man, Jones, pulling a woman out of the crashed vehicle.

State troopers are responsible for the state freeway system and were en route to the crash site when an update came in. The call was now “priority one,” involving possible danger, she said. 

According to testimony on Wednesday, after the medics, state troopers James Gilmer and Kenneth Harden II arrived. 

Gilmer got there first, and the video played in court shows Gilmer approaching Jones as a medic is holding Jones back. Jones wanted to ride in the ambulance along with the woman, but medics wouldn’t let him.

Gilmer asked the man identified as Jones to show his ID. He said, instead, Jones flashed a badge and said “off-duty,” which he took as Jones claiming to be a cop.

But that didn’t end the matter. It only led to more questions. 

“If someone’s going to flash a badge and say they’re a cop, I want to know who he is and what he’s doing,” Gilmer said.

Gilmer testified Wednesday that he thought he was possibly dealing with a fellow officer, and advised Jones: “Don’t be dumb. You’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”

“And what’s that?” Hammoud asked. 

“Cooperating,” Gilmer said.

About Jones’s refusal to turn over identification, “I have the right to detain at that point,” Gilmer said.

Bain said he counted five times in the footage where Gilmer asked Jones for his identification, and was ignored or denied outright.

By then, Harden had arrived. While Gilmer spoke to Jones face-to-face, Harden stood behind him. Harden said Jones’s alleged noncompliance and body language were worrisome.

“He shook his left arm out, in a fashion consistent with getting ready for an altercation,” Harden testified.

That’s when he and Gilmer each grabbed a wrist and wrestled Jones to the ground.

Harden testified that Gilmer controlled Jones’s right arm, but he refused to surrender the left, even allegedly telling the trooper “you’re not strong enough.”

Things escalated. Twice, Harden said, he warned Jones to stop resisting, and twice it continued. After both warnings, Harden zapped Jones with a stun gun to his upper back and shoulder.

That didn’t work either, so Harden used his pepper spray. Pictures from the day of the arrest show Jones’s face to be red, his eyes puffy.

It was only after the pepper spray — and an assist from Fowlerville police officer Tony Coln and medics who kept Jones from moving his legs — that police were able to make the arrest, Harden said.

Spectator benches on both sides of the courtroom were filled with Jones’ supporters.

Among them was Dr. Paul Turner Jr., an assistant pastor at Spiritual Israel Temple No. 8 in Detroit.

Turner said he’s known Jones since birth.

“I called him to the junior deacons board at age two,” Turner said after the hearing. “I had him counting the church’s money with me. We don’t want to see his life blemished.”

“Sometimes, we make bad decisions, but we don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water,” Turner said. 

Turner said he was warned Jones of the ills of alcohol from a young age.

“Once you start putting those chemicals in your body, your thinking changes,” Turner said. “And then your behavior changes.”