DA Mark Jones, the Georgia district attorney who was criminally charged for the destruction of property while filming a campaign video, was indicted on nine counts of criminal misconduct Tuesday. The Chattahoochee Circuit District Attorney is accused of attempting to influence a police officer’s testimony in a trial with the intent to frame a suspect for murder. He is also accused of attempted bribery, having offered $1,000 to his fellow prosecutors in exchange for favors during a trial.
According to an official statement from Attorney General Chris Carr, the 40-year-old DA from Muscogee County was charged Tuesday with two counts of influencing witnesses, two counts of bribery, two counts of violation of oath by a public officer, two counts of attempted violation of oath by public officers, and one count of attempted subornation of perjury.
All nine charges are alleged to have occurred within DA Mark Jones’ time in office, which only began in January. The attorney general said in his statement that “it is important for the citizens of Georgia to know that our office will not hesitate to enforce the rule of law, including when it involves the actions of a public official.”
He continued, saying that “we appreciate the critical role and service of the Muscogee County grand jury, and we thank the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their hard work in this investigation. We look forward to presenting our case in Court.”
According to the statement, the Prosecution Division of the Georgia Department of Law “presented evidence to a Muscogee County grand jury on September 7.” The indictment alleged that Jones tried to influence Columbus Police Corporal Sherman Hayes on July 7. DA Mark Jones is suspected of trying to alter Hayes’ statement in a trial regarding the death of Sara Holtrop who was shot in her home.
The police department suspected that 20-year-old Elijah Farral accidentally shot the victim. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct. DA Mark Jones wanted a murder conviction, the indictment revealed. He is accused of telling Hayes to testify that Farral discovered Holtrop was cheating on him. This would provide a motive for a murder for which Jones wanted Farral convicted.
The Georgia district attorney was also believed to have bribed two prosecutors in his office. DA Mark Jones allegedly tried to pay both Sheneka Jones Terry and Kimberly Schwarts $1,000 each. Jones allegedly wanted Terry to pursue a murder conviction. He is also accused of offering Schwartz the bribe so she would announce that a murder case was ready for trial when it wasn’t.
Jones was also accused of trying to influence a witness on March 30 by threatening and engaging in “misleading conduct with the intent to influence.” He allegedly tried to “prevent the testimony of Chris Bailey in a victim impact statement.” Jones reportedly did not assist Bailey “through the complexities of the criminal justice system” and did not ensure the victim “was apprised of the rights afforded him under the law.”
After posting bail late Tuesday night, DA Mark Jones told reporters that he “did not do what they say [he] did.” He claimed he had “never taken a bribe, never tried to influence a witness,” and “never tried to get someone to testify untruthfully.”
Jones explained that “I’ve been on the job nine months and fighting really hard for the people, you know, trying cases, and this happens. I did not do what they said I did, apparently, it’s some pretty serious stuff.”
He continued, claiming that “I didn’t take any bribe, I didn’t influence any witness, I didn’t try to suborn perjury. So, I don’t know what they’re talking about.” It was reported that Jones faces more than 30 years in prison for the present charges against him.
Anthony Johnson, a local attorney in the Georgia area, pointed out that if DA Mark Jones is convicted, it would bring into question all of the cases his office prosecuted over since he took office in January. Johnson explained that “I think he has good intentions, it’s just the execution of how it’s manifesting. I think that’s the issue.”
He continued, saying that “count one is where you’re trying to influence a witness as charged, and then two – you have the subjugation of perjury, which means that you’re trying to get a person to lie under oath and then three – which is a violation of the oath of office, which is really the same thing.”
“We’re going to have to see what other cases were presented to the grand jury, in which there could have been some false testimony, what other convictions were obtained when the integrity of the system was in question,” Johnson concluded. “In my opinion, we have to do that.”