Prosecutor tells judge he will drop criminal property damage case against DA Mark Jones

Crime

COLUMBUS, Ga, (WRBL) — Five days after a Superior Court judge declared a mistrial in District Attorney’s Mark Jones criminal property damage case, all the charges have been dropped.

The decision from the special prosecutor was announced late Monday afternoon during a virtual hearing in front of Judge Jeffrey Monroe.

“I no longer believe it is in the interest of justice to move forward with this matter,” said Special Prosecutor Brian Patterson.

There was confusion last Wednesday when Monroe declared the mistrial because of witness misconduct.

No confusion today as Patterson made the announcement during the virtual status conference.

Patterson said he will not pursue felony property damage charges against Jones, who was elected DA after the controversial video, and co-defendant Erik Whittington.

During the 2020 campaign to become DA, Jones taped a rap video in the Civic Center parking lot on May 17.

Multiple drivers did donut in the parking lot, causing damage to the asphalt. Once the video aired, Columbus Police began an investigation that led to the charges. Initially, city officials set the damage to the parking lot at more than $300,000, the cost to repave the entire lot. During the trial the city said the damages were closer to $2,500, the cost to restripe the area where the video was shot.

Three of the five co-defendants — Jonathan Justo, Chris Garner, and Chris Black — pleaded guilty before the start of the trial against Jones and Whittington. They were sentenced on a misdemeanor charge to 12 months probation, about $1,000 in fines and restitution, and a ban from the Civic Center.

With the state’s felony case crumbling last week because of what some jurors later described as excessive charges, the mistrial was declared after the judge discovered some witnesses were watching live-stream of testimony against his orders.

Here’s why Patterson told the court he was dismissing the charges.

This does not end Jones’ legal issues. He is facing a nine-count indictment handed down two weeks ago. It alleges criminal misconduct during his first eight months in office.

Two of the counts allege that Jones attempted to get a Columbus police officer to lie under oath. The allegation is Jones asked the officer to lie so that an involuntary manslaughter charge against Elijah Farral could be upgraded to murder.

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