Livingston — A state judge ordered Springfield Police Chief Jimmy Jones to immediately resign his post as part of a plea deal reached on the eve of trial Tuesday in a ticket-fixing scheme that authorities claim also involved Mayor Charles Martin.
Both Jones and Martin faced four felony counts, including obstruction of justice, criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice, injuring public records and criminal conspiracy to injure public records. The men were accused by authorities of reducing a woman’s drunken driving charge as a favor to a friend of Martin.
Martin faces trial in June in the alleged ticket-fixing scheme. He was in court for what was supposed to be Jones’ trial on the charges. The mayor sat stoically in the gallery, giving no outward reaction as Jones pleaded and faced sentencing.
Afterward, both men declined to comment on their cases. Martin said only that the city had not selected a new chief to replace Jones.
The state Attorney General’s Office prosecuted Jones after the local District Attorney recused himself. In exchange for prosecutors dropping the four felonies, Jones pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal mischief. State law defines criminal mischief, in part, as: “Giving of any false report or complaint to a sheriff, or his deputies, or to any officer of the law relative to a commission of, or an attempt to commit, a crime.”
In 2011, then-town police officer Ryan Weaver pulled over Tyra Jones, who is not related to the chief, and administered a blood-alcohol level test. She blew a 0.185, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.
In the following days, Martin and Jimmy Jones approached the officer on multiple occasions to ask about the arrest, Weaver wrote in a report.
According to Weaver, the mayor asked him if the police department could “(take) care of his friend” and drop the drunken driving charge down to reckless operation.
After several meetings, Weaver agreed to write a new citation, saying he feared for his job. The officer wrote that he saw Jimmy Jones unseal his original arrest report, put it in the trash, and walk out of the building with Tyra Jones’s license.
In addition to resigning as chief, state District Judge Bruce Bennett sentenced Jimmy Jones to a 6-month sentence, all of which was suspended. He must pay $550 in fines and fees, serve one year of probation and perform 32 hours of community service. Bennett said Jimmy Jones could meet his community service requirement by giving public speeches about misconduct in office.
Despite his forced resignation, Jimmy Jones is not legally barred from working in law enforcement, explained prosecutor David Caldwell, head of the AG’s Public Corruption Special Prosecution Unit.
Still, the case will likely impact his future job prospects.
“This is gonna chase him around for awhile, as it should,” Caldwell said after the hearing. “You do not want someone in office who is doing these kinds of things.”
Defense attorney Tim Fondren said Jimmy Jones is looking for work in both law enforcement and in the private sector. He said the chief was “a little sad” to give up his job, but that he thought the deal was fair.
Caldwell said his office may have pursued the felony charges if they found evidence that Jimmy Jones had repeatedly abused his power.
“There just wasn’t anything out there,” he said.
He also said his office did not believe the decision to alter the arrest report was due to bribery or an exchange of favors.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.