Judge declares mistrial after witness reveals she shared live stream on Facebook
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - After a little under 15 hours of witness testimony in the trial of District Attorney Mark Jones, court proceedings came to an abrupt stop.
Witness testimony was supposed to pick back up in the trial of Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Mark Jones, but shortly after lunch, a shocking turn of events as the judge in the case declared a mistrial.
Jones is facing charges relating to his campaign music video where tire marks were left all over the Civic Center parking lot.
During court testimony, it was revealed that a few witnesses had been watching the live stream of the proceedings - something appointed Judge Jefferey Monroe says is not allowed. As a result, the judge declared a mistrial.
Wednesday’s court proceedings began with the state calling it’s first witness, Christopher Garner - one of the original people named in the indictment alongside Jones and Co-Defendant, Erik Whittington.
Garner is also one of the three other co-defendants who took a plea deal earlier before trial began. He sentenced to 12 months probation and ordered to pay a court fee. Garner testified that he was told to come out to the Columbus Civic Center, but never was told by by District Attorney Mark Jones to do donuts in the parking lot. He also told the court that Jones never did anything to stop them from doing donuts either.
Cross examination of Garner’s testimony ended with Mark Jones’ defense Attorney, Chris Breault, asking Garner, “Are you a grown man?”
Garner replied, “That’s correct.”
To which Breault, responded, “Is Mark Jones your daddy?
Garner said, “No, sir.”
Gadget Jackson was called upon by the state to testify. According to Jackson, he orchestrated the music video and it was going to happen if Mark Jones showed up or not. He told the court that Jones was just a prop and the intention of the video was to influence people to participate in the district attorney election race last year.
While on the stand, Jackson said, “Columbus has lost it’s way as far as I’m concerned. There’s a lot of things that aren’t really happening. The fact that we’re in here about this versus all the murders and stuff going on in the city is really tripping me out.”
Other witnesses called included William Davis, also known as “Jawgaboi”, Joshua Constock, and Ana Grimmett.
Grimmett testified she is the girlfriend of Christopher Black, another co-defendant named who took a plea deal in the case. Grimmett’s testimony revealed she had shared live streams of the court proceedings on her Facebook page prior to testifying. She also told the court that she did not watch them and shared them because she had people who were interested in the proceedings who were not in the Columbus area.
William Kendrick, defense attorney for Erik Whittington, asked, “Ms. Grimmett, is this your Facebook page?
To which she replied, “It is.”
Kendrick said, “Alright and so WTVM is playing live on your Facebook from your Facebook page.”
Grimmett responded, “It’s not live. I shared the link.”
“You shared the link?,” Kendrick asked.
“Yeah,” said Grimmett.
When asked his reaction to the Judge Jeffery Monroe’s decision to declare the case a mistrial, Kendrick said, “I think it’s something that pains us. You know, you never want a case to mis-try. You’ve done the work, picked the jury, you’ve done everything you needed to do in order to get it rolling, but unfortunately, sometimes this is what happens.”
Chris Breault said, “I think this was a fraudulent case. I thought the evidence was created by the government to influence the election in the favor of Mark Jones appointment and after speaking with the jurors they all believe the same thing after hearing the evidence.”
A juror, who did not want to be identified, said in a statement to News Leader 9:
“Waste of time. For what we went through for three days, We could’ve been taking care of these murders going on. We could have been taking care of so much stuff. All these guys could have been charged equally. If everyone that did the same burnouts, they did the same thing but aren’t getting felony charges. Look at google earth, there’s tire marks all over google earth. We shouldn’t be here for this. Where we were at the time, I was at not guilty for sure.”
Another juror, Robert Nerkowski, Jr, messaged News Leader 9 on Facebook and said:
“As a juror for the past 3 days on the District Attorney Mark Jones trial, I am very disappointed. This case NEVER should have been what it was but let me go over some of the disturbing aspects of the case:
1. There were an amazing amount of resources poured into the investigation that could have been better used. This was a trial about people doing burn outs in a parking lot and NOT capitol murder. This was a priority trial and first priority of the DA’S Office which is disgusting because there are people in lockup that are stuck there for years waiting for their days in court.
2. The younger kids all plead out to charges that if they had money for an attorney they could have fought and won. Because of economic limitations they plead to charges they may or may not have done. One plead to moving violations and he was not even operating a vehicle.
3. It became obvious that the city conspired with the police to ramp up the charges into felonies and intentionally made the criteria for bonds exceptionally high. This caused many of the defendants to plead out and let two defendants with the actual money to hire attorneys and defend themselves.
4. This was clear politics of the worse sort. The same shady politics we see every day. They basically railroad Attorney Jones and his co-defendant in an effort to make him ineligible to be the district attorney because of felony convictions.
This was good old boy politics at its best. I for one was voting to acquit because the prosecution’s case was so weak. It became very clear that law enforcement and the DA’s office were not seeking the truth. The were trying to punish Mark Jones for daring to fight the status quo and they were seeking to destroy him to maintain their power. This should never go to trial again and charges need to be dropped. It is a waste off Tax Payers Money. The people are tired from the lies and deceptions from politicians and what seems to be rouge departments. INNOCENT is the only acceptable outcome. Anything else will be an insult to the good people of Columbus and to the judicial system.
Robert Nerkowski, JR
According to court officials where things go from here, all parties will meet Monday for a status conference to work out the details on if the state will retry the case or drop the charges. According to Breault, if convicted Jones could lose his job.
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