Antoine Jones Rejects Plea Offer and Goes to Trial Without a Lawyer

Antoine Jones will long be famous in Fourth Amendment circles for the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Jones. Meanwhile, on remand from the Supreme Court, the case has gone to trial in federal court in Washington DC for the third time. This time the government is relying on cell-site evidence instead of GPS evidence to show his location. And Jones has decided to represent himself. The Washington Post reports:

As prosecutors laid out the case against him, Antoine Jones took copious notes, loudly tearing sheets of paper from a notebook as he filled each page.

Jones, a former nightclub owner and suspected high-level cocaine dealer, is representing himself in what is his third trial on a drug conspiracy charge. If Friday’s brief proceedings in the District’s federal court were any indication, the next several weeks of arguments and testimony will provide several more memorable moments.

The allegations against Jones, 53, are serious. In her opening argument, federal prosecutor Courtney Spivey Urschel said he funneled hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, worth as much as $21,000 apiece, into the Washington area from Mexico, storing the drugs in Prince George’s County and elsewhere.

When FBI agents eventually moved in on Jones’s operation in October 2005, Urschel said, they seized 97 kilograms of cocaine from one stash house alone.

Jones has been in prison since 2005 on these charges. According to an earlier story in the Post, he was offered two different plea deals by prosecutors:

In court Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Darlene M. Soltys said the government had offered Jones, 53, two deals that could result in sentences of 15 to 22 years, with credit for the seven years he has been in jail. Jones would have to agree to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge.

U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, who also presided over the first two trials, urged Jones to think carefully about the consequences of passing up the government’s offer.

“I know you’ve rejected good advice before,” she said. “It’s your choice, but at the end of the day, it’s life.”

For more than an hour, defense attorneys and prosecutors, including U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, huddled in Huvelle’s chambers, discussing the terms of a possible plea agreement. But back in the courtroom, Jones did not seem inclined to make a deal.

“I said no today,” Jones told the judge. “I’m preparing for trial.”

Prosecutors gave Jones until Thursday, when the two sides reconvene, to consider the offer. Under the first option, Jones would give up his right to appeal and the judge would set a sentence ranging from 15 to 20 years in prison. The second option would allow Jones to preserve his right to ask for a hearing on the admissability of evidence obtained from wiretaps, but the judge would set a sentence ranging from 17 to 22 years.