The son of former Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones will no longer have to appear in court on a driving while intoxicated charge in Morehouse Parish or for allegedly battering a woman in Ouachita Parish.
That would be the case since state Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office reduced the DWI charge and dropped the battery charge against Duncan M. Jones, 37, of Mer Rouge, who maintains a law practice in Bastrop.
The three prosecutors involved in Duncan Jones’ case on behalf of the Attorney General’s office — including a current Special Assistant U.S. Attorney — previously served as assistant district attorneys under Jerry Jones. Jerry Jones served as district attorney for the Fourth Judicial District — which includes both Morehouse and Ouachita — for some 25 years before leaving office in late 2016 amid controversy.
The misdemeanor charges against Duncan Jones in Morehouse and Ouachita Parishes were reduced or dropped on the same day earlier this year.
With the exception of one motion to continue in the Morehouse case in late 2017, The Ouachita Citizen’s review of the court records in both cases showed no activity since 2016.
Both cases against Duncan Jones stemmed from incidents in late 2015 for which he was arrested or charged through a warrant.
The statute of limitations for misdemeanor offenses in Louisiana is two years.
The Ouachita Citizen made attempts to reach Duncan Jones for a comment, but he was unavailable for comment before the newspaper went to press Tuesday night.
The newspaper also spoke with one of the assistant attorney generals involved in the case, but a spokeswoman for Landry’s office later contacted The Ouachita Citizen and told the newspaper it could not print remarks previously made — on the record — by the assistant attorney general. The Ouachita Citizen’s interviews are detailed below.
Charges in Morehouse Parish
In Morehouse Parish, Duncan Jones was charged with DWI (first offense) and speeding (50 in a 25-mph zone) on Sept. 27, 2015, according to an arrest report.
According to the arrest report, Duncan Jones was detected by radar accelerating his vehicle to 50 mph before turning in to his home driveway on North 22nd Street in Mer Rouge where authorities made contact with him.
“When I made contact with Jones I smelled an odor of alcohol coming from his person,” stated the arrest report. “I observed bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and swaying while standing. I asked Jones to submit to a series of S.F.S.T. (standardized field sobriety test) which he agreed. Jones performed poorly on HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus), one leg stand, and walk and turn tests.”
Jones refused to submit a sample for a chemical test.
On Sept. 29, 2015, Jerry Jones filed a motion to recuse his office from prosecuting the charges against his son. Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Carl Sharp signed the recusal.
“The District Attorney suggests that a conflict exists and requests that he and his office be recused from the above-captioned matter and that the same be referred to the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Louisiana,” stated the recusal motion, signed by Assistant District Attorney John Spires.
A little more than a month later, the Attorney General’s office — which, at the time, was under then-Attorney General Buddy Caldwell — accepted Jerry Jones’ recusal and agreed to serve as prosecutor.
Former Assistant Attorney General J. Michael “Mike” Ruddick was tapped to act as lead prosecutor on the case. Ruddick previously served as an assistant district attorney under Jerry Jones and was Jerry Jones’ chief felony prosecutor for many years. Ruddick and Jerry Jones studied law together at Tulane University Law School.
On Aug. 15, 2016, Ruddick signed a bill of information charging Duncan Jones for unlawfully operating a vehicle under the influence of alcoholic beverages and for speeding.
Duncan Jones was represented in Morehouse Parish by Monroe attorney LaValle Salomon.
Between August 2016 and April of this year, a motion to continue on March 6, 2017 was the only activity in the case.
On April 9, the Attorney General’s office filed an amended bill of information, reducing the DWI charge to reckless operation. The original count was struck out by pen and handwritten: “...not in a careful and prudent manner, so as to endanger life, limb or property of any person.”
Assistant Attorney General Michelle Thompson signed the amended bill of information. Thompson, nee Anderson, also served as an Assistant District Attorney under Jerry Jones. In June, U.S. Attorney David Joseph announced the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District would designate Thompson as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney to combat violent crime in Monroe and northeastern Louisiana.
Charges in Ouachita Parish
In Ouachita Parish, Duncan Jones was charged with one count of simple criminal damage to property and one count of simple battery (domestic) by warrant after Monroe police were informed of a domestic dispute at 2103 Sherwood Drive in Monroe.
Monroe police officers responded to the call at the victim’s house on Dec. 24, 2015. The victim described Duncan Jones as her boyfriend.
“According to (the victim), just before officers’ arrival she and her boyfriend, Duncan Jones, were involved in an argument,” stated the warrant. “(The victim) advised that argument led to Duncan Jones picking her up and throwing her over a chair in her residence. (The victim) stated this led to her back being bruised and injured.
“After this occurred, (the victim) advised Duncan left her residence only to return and kick open her front door, which caused approximately $400 dollars in damage. Duncan would then take (the victim)’s cell phone and throw it over (the victim)’s residence to prevent her from calling the police. (The victim) stated this resulted in her iPhone 6 to have a broken screen. The estimated damage to (the victim)’s cell phone is $100. (The victim) stated she and Duncan have never lived together.”
Duncan Jones was represented during a Jan. 4, 2016 hearing by Monroe attorney Mennon Campbell Jr., who previously served as an assistant district attorney under Jerry Jones.
Two days later, Jerry Jones recused himself and his office from the case and asked the Attorney General’s office to prosecute the charges. Jerry Jones filed his recusal motion on Jan. 6, 2016, and the Attorney General’s office — under Landry — accepted the recusal on Feb. 1, 2016. Ruddick was appointed lead counsel in the case.
Though an arraignment was set for Feb. 3, 2016, no such arraignment took place or was rescheduled.
Under Ruddick’s watch, there was no activity in the case until April 9 of this year when Assistant Attorney General Madeleine Slaughter-Young filed a nolle prosequi, or decline slip. Slaughter-Young’s decline slip was filed the same day that Thompson reduced the DWI charge against Duncan Jones.
“This office will take no further action,” wrote Slaughter-Young who, like Campbell, Thompson and Ruddick, also served as assistant district attorney under Jerry Jones.
AG’s office weighs ins
The Ouachita Citizen spoke with Slaughter-Young earlier this week. Slaughter-Young said the victim contacted the Attorney General’s office and requested that Duncan Jones not be prosecuted.
“The victim contacted and said she did not want to proceed,” said Slaughter-Young, as she reviewed the court record. “It says domestic but I don’t see that it was charged properly.”
Later, Slaughter-Young said, “There was an agreement with my predecessor. He had agreed evidently with the defense attorney.”
Slaughter-Young confirmed Ruddick was her predecessor. She was assigned to the case once Ruddick retired.
Slaughter-Young said she did not know why Duncan Jones’ DWI charge in Morehouse Parish was reduced to reckless operation.
“I can’t tell you why it was reduced to careless operation,” she said. “They must not have thought it was worthy for a DWI. I’m assuming there was an agreement with my predecessor, and we honor those agreements.”
Campbell, who represented Duncan Jones in the domestic abuse matter, could not tell The Ouachita Citizen what transpired in the case or prompted the Attorney General to drop the Ouachita Parish charges against his client.
“As far as I know, those cases have been dead for a while,” Campbell said. “Those issues were resolved.”
Later, Ruth Wisher, a press secretary for Landry, called The Ouachita Citizen and told the newspaper it should not have asked Slaughter-Young questions but directed its inquiries to her alone.
“I wish you had come to me first,” Wisher said. “We had to file something saying the charges were dropped. We don’t always say why charges were dropped.”
Wisher told The Ouachita Citizen that Slaughter-Young’s comments had been made off the record.
“You can’t print that,” she said.
The Ouachita Citizen told Wisher that Slaughter-Young had not prefaced any remarks with a request to go off the record or on background.
The newspaper also had properly identified itself. Wisher ultimately acknowledged The Ouachita Citizen had properly conducted its interviews on the record.