Mental health evaluation ordered for Rep. Jewell Jones at his lawyer's request

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Howell — The attorney for state Rep. Jewell Jones asked Friday that the Inkster Democrat receive a mental health evaluation before proceeding to trial following a series of bond and jail security violations that started with drunk driving charges in April. 

Byron Nolen, a former Inkster mayor who has served as co-counsel in recent days, requested the evaluation after Jones' lawyer Ali Hammoud withdrew from the legal team, citing a breakdown of attorney-client privilege.

Livingston County Circuit Judge Michael Hatty granted the request and adjourned the case until October to allow time for the evaluation and for proceedings in a separate case involving contraband in the county jail.

"I have known him for a long time," Nolen said after the hearing. "And I know there is somewhat of a change recently, and I want to find out what’s really going on.”

State Rep. Jewell Jones stands next to his lawyers Ali Hammoud and Byron Nolen during a hearing in Livingston County Circuit Court Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, on the status of his drunken driving case. Nolen asked Judge Michael Hatty for a mental health evaluation for Jones.

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Former state Rep Sherry Gay Dagnogo, a Detroit Democrat who served with Jones and was at the hearing, was among more than a dozen people in the courtroom Friday to support Jones. After the hearing, Gay-Dagnogo said the 26-year-old lawmaker needs help.

"As a mother, my heart laments for what I’m seeing unravel in front of me," Gay-Dagnogo said.

"This is not representative of who I know Jewell is, and I can only surmise, not being a (mental health) professional, that there is something that lies beneath this that is really tearing him up. Lansing can eat you up and spit you out as an adult.”

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. 

A Livingston County judge on Friday ordered a mental health evaluation of state Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, after Jones' attorney requested it.

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

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 when he later checked in on social media at a Planet Fitness and attended legislative committee hearings. He is alleged to have failed to pay to keep his alcohol tether operating. He also was accused of consuming alcohol earlier this month and then tampering with his tether, allegations for which he took responsibility in court. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com