A Fourth Judicial District Court judge denied a motion to seal the criminal case involving a West Monroe police officer who is accused of sharing a homemade sex video with a West Monroe teacher, who in turn allegedly sent a screenshot from the sex video to numerous individuals, including a high school student.
Judge Larry Jefferson shot down District Attorney Steve Tew’s office’s move to seal State of Louisiana v. Dennis Edward Wall during a hearing Jan. 17.
The Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office began investigating a complaint in December 2017 that several individuals had received, through Facebook and/or text message, one or more images captured from a sex video. The sex video, which also had been shared, depicted sexual intercourse between West Monroe police officer Dennis Wall, of West Monroe, and a woman identified as Wall’s then-girlfriend.
The woman in the sex video claimed she asked Wall to delete the video. Later, she made the complaint with the Sheriff’s Office after learning a screenshot from the sex video had been shared with others.
In March 2018, the Sheriff’s Office’s investigation led to Wall’s arrest for non-consensual disclosure of a private image. Wall is widely known as the organizer for the Battle of the Badges event held each year in Monroe. The two sex videos were recorded in late 2017 when Wall and his then-girlfriend were in Galveston, Texas, for a Battle of the Badges event, according to court records.
The Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s office proceeded with its prosecution of Wall for the offense, though a sheriff’s investigator’s report, which recently surfaced, shed more light on who distributed the sex videos and sexual images.
According to an investigative report by Senior Investigator James Humphrey of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office, Wall sent two sex videos to Michelle Jones, who teaches a personal finance class at West Monroe High School. Later, Michelle Jones sent the two sex videos to her ex-husband, John “Danny” Jones, who was dating the woman depicted in the sex videos, according to Humphrey’s investigative report. At the time, the woman in the two sex videos also was working at Danny Jones’ now-shuttered home health agency, United Home Care Inc.
During the course of his investigation, Humphrey found Michelle Jones also sent a screenshot from one of the sex videos to several United Home Care employees as well as to Danny Jones’ son, who was a student at West Monroe High School at the time.
When asked about whether he was aware of the allegations against Michelle Jones, West Monroe High School Principal Shelby Ainsworth told The Ouachita Citizen he was not.
“No, sir,” Ainsworth said. “Not at all to me.”
In a joint interview with the newspaper earlier this week, three Ouachita Parish Schools officials indicated they were unaware of the investigation or allegations: Superintendent Don Coker, personnel director Todd Guice, and Ouachita Parish School Board President Jerry Hicks.
“This is the first we’ve heard of any of this,” said Coker. “Normally, we would be handling some of that internally.”
Though Wall was arrested in connection to the sheriff’s investigation, no charges were filed against Michelle Jones. As reported by The Ouachita Citizen in March 2018, the warrant for Wall’s arrest indicated Michelle Jones may have been involved in the distribution of the sex videos or sexual image, but details about the extent of her alleged involvement were not publicly available until the sheriff’s investigative report cropped up in the court record.
The sheriff’s investigative report was forwarded to Tew’s office for consideration of charges against Michelle Jones. She received diversion instead.
In Louisiana, a district attorney’s diversion program normally allows individuals who have committed a crime to avoid court hearings, a conviction or a criminal record by paying various fees and completing certain probationary measures —typically for a year or less, depending on the crime’s classification as a felony or misdemeanor.
Non-consensual disclosure of a private image is a felony under the state’s revenge pornography laws.
Documents filed in State of Louisiana v. Dennis Edward Wall in December 2018 by Wall’s attorney, Devin Jones, included a copy of Humphrey’s investigative report as well as the revelation that Michelle Jones was shielded from prosecution, because of her diversion agreement with Tew’s office.
“I think it is a weird sense of justice for one person to face the possibility of going to jail and losing his job while the other person, who sent a picture to a student at their school, gets diversion,” said Devin Jones, who is not related to Michelle Jones.
Devin Jones is an attorney with E. Orum Young Law in Monroe.
Monroe attorney Cameron Murray, who represents Michelle Jones, confirmed his client was investigated by the Sheriff’s Office, though she would not be prosecuted for any crimes in connection to the investigation, under the terms of her diversion agreement.
“She may have been, but she will not be prosecuted,” Murray said. “They agreed not to prosecute.”
“Never arrested or charged,” he later added.
After conceding that court records were open to the public, Murray repeatedly implored The Ouachita Citizen to refrain from publishing his client’s name in a news report.
“I don’t see the point of mentioning someone by name,” Murray said. “The public doesn’t go there (the courthouse) and scour the record. You can probably guess it would be embarrassing for someone who is a school teacher.”
One instead of the other
Several people interviewed by The Ouachita Citizen expressed surprise about recent developments in the case. Even the district attorney indicated some reservations about the need for Wall to spend time in prison for the alleged crime.
During an interview with The Ouachita Citizen earlier this week, Tew concluded his remarks by saying he wanted to find a “resolution” in Wall’s case.
“I don’t think Dennis Wall needs to go to jail,” Tew said.
Guice, the school system’s personnel director, expressed surprise that Michelle Jones received the benefit of a diversion agreement, if the investigation revealed she sent a sexual image to a student.
“It seems to me that if that happened with a student, I am surprised they would place her on diversion,” Guice said.
Murray also expressed surprise that the district attorney’s office was prosecuting Wall.
“I’m frankly surprised they’re prosecuting the one (charge) against him,” Murray said.
At the conclusion of his investigative report, Humphrey noted that an arrest warrant was prepared for Wall, but the report concluded with the possibility of criminal charges against Michelle Jones as well.
“Please forward this report to the District Attorney’s office for review in reference to criminal charges for Michelle’s involvement in these criminal acts,” stated Humphrey’s investigative report.
In September 2018, the district attorney’s office also charged Wall with one count of obstruction of justice. Later, Tew’s office took the case before a grand jury. A Ouachita Parish grand jury returned a true bill against Wall on Nov. 9, 2018. The grand jury indicted Wall on the same charges he previously faced.
When asked about about the basis for the obstruction of justice charge, Tew said the charge stemmed from allegations that Wall and another person got rid of the cell phones they used to distribute the sex videos or sexual images.
“He allegedly told the girl that was involved in transmitting the information that we need to get rid of those phones,” said Tew, who did not identify the “girl” as Michelle Jones.
When asked about the allegations that Michelle Jones also was involved in getting rid of her cell phone, or removing evidence, Tew claimed he was unaware Michelle Jones was investigated.
“I didn’t know Michelle Jones was under investigation,” Tew said. “I’m not under that impression.”
When The Ouachita Citizen pointed out it had obtained a copy of the sheriff’s investigative report detailing Michelle Jones’ alleged criminal acts, Tew indicated he suddenly remembered Michelle Jones.
“She’s been diverted,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, her case is over with, unless she commits another crime.”
As of earlier this week, Wall had not received a trial date. He also has not yet been arraigned on the grand jury’s indictment, according to his attorney.
“It’s an interesting case that’s a year old,” said Devin Jones. “One defendant got diversion, and Mr. Wall hasn’t gotten a trial date.”
“He hasn’t even been arraigned on the indictment,” Devin Jones later added.
A court document filed by Devin Jones on Dec. 19, 2018 called for the district attorney’s office to disclose any existing plea agreement with Michelle Jones. Wall’s motion also listed a number of possible criminal charges against Michelle Jones: obstruction of justice for disposing of a cell phone to destroy evidence, harassing calls and text messages. The motion also claimed Michelle Jones committed non-consensual disclosure of a private image because she intentionally sent a private image of the victim to Danny Jones, Jones’ son, and five other people.
West Monroe Police Chief Jeff Terrell confirmed Wall is still employed by the police department. Terrell said Wall has been on administrative leave since the time of his arrest last March.
“He hasn’t been given a trial date,” Terrell said. “That’s what we’re waiting on. Technically, he’s innocent until proven guilty. But we’re not sure that’s going to happen.”
DA tries to seal
Beyond the grand jury’s actions in November 2018, there was little movement in State v. Wall until Wall’s attorney filed a demand for a jury trial.
Initially, Wall was represented by Monroe attorney LaValle Salomon. In late 2018, Devin Jones began representing Wall and filed a notice of a jury trial demand on Dec. 14, 2018. Three days later, Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wendell Manning — who had presided over the case since it was first initiated — recused himself from the matter. The court record does not indicate why Manning recused from the case.
The case was reassigned to Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Larry Jefferson.
Shortly after filing a jury trial demand, Devin Jones filed his client’s motion asking for a copy of the district attorney’s plea agreement with Michelle Jones. Wall’s motion questioned whether the district attorney’s office offered Michelle Jones a “plea agreement” to avoid any disciplinary action taken by her employer, the Ouachita Parish School Board.
During a Jan. 17 court hearing before Jefferson, Assistant District Attorney Sean Southern confirmed there was no “plea agreement,” only a “diversion agreement” since Michelle Jones was never formally charged with a crime.
During the hearing, the court turned its attention to the district attorney’s motion to seal the State v. Wall record. The district attorney’s motion to seal the record was not filed until after Wall filed the sheriff’s investigative report into the record as an attachment to his motion to disclose Michelle Jones’ plea agreement.
When Southern asked the court to seal the court record, Jefferson asked for more time to consider the district attorney’s motion. Southern asked the court to approve a temporary seal of Wall’s record until the court reached a final decision.
Southern said the district attorney’s office filed the motion to seal the court record in State v. Wall “out of an abundance of caution to protect the victim.” Later, Southern indicated the motion to seal the court record was filed to protect the subject of the diversion agreement, a reference to Michelle Jones.
Though the district attorney’s office claimed that sealing the court record would protect the victim, the sheriff’s investigative report did not reveal any major details about the victim that were not already included in the warrant for Wall’s arrest. Wall’s arrest warrant was publicly available at the time of his arrest in March 2018. The major difference between Wall’s two-page arrest warrant and the sheriff’s investigative report was the additional four pages detailing Michelle Jones’ alleged actions. Many of the details about Michelle Jones’ alleged involvement in the distribution of the sex video and images were omitted from Wall’s arrest warrant.
The sealing of court records was appropriate in cases involving sex crimes, Southern argued. According to Southern, Wall could possibly face a charge of video voyeurism, which is a sex offense requiring any person convicted of the crime to register as a sex offender.
Devin Jones pointed out that his client was not currently charged with any sex offense. Southern conceded Devin Jones’ point was correct. In light of Southern’s concession, Jefferson denied the district attorney’s motion to seal the court record.
Devin Jones told The Ouachita Citizen his client was ready to “resolve” the case.
“The only thing the state has done is try to seal the case to keep the public from finding out what’s going on in this case,” Devin Jones said. “As this moves along, I think the facts will come to light.”
in sex video
According to Humphrey’s investigative report, the investigation of the non-consensual disclosure of private images began at United Home Care’s offices in West Monroe in late December 2017. Humphrey met with Danny Jones, who owned the now-defunct company; Danny Jones’ girlfriend, who was the woman in the sex videos, as well as with the couple’s attorney, Dion Young, of West Monroe.
“Investigator learned that during the previous weekend (December 23-24, 2017), that Danny’s ex-wife, Michelle Jones, had sent either a pair of sexually explicit videos and/or a sexually explicit image of [the victim] to Danny, Danny’s son [whose name was redacted] and to numerous employees at United Home Health,” stated Humphrey’s March 5, 2018 report.
The sexual image later distributed appeared to be a screenshot from a portion of the sex video after it was paused and captured, according to Humphrey’s investigative report.
“Some type of digital marking tool was used to make it appear to be a Christmas card with a nude image of [the victim] with a yellow star being used to cover [the victim’s] left breast nipple and areola,” stated Humphrey’s investigative report. “The words ‘Have a Merry Christmas’ can be seen near the top with [the victim’s name] typed on the side.”
There also were two videos apparently taken from the same sexual encounter between the victim and Wall, according to Humphrey’s investigative report.
Danny Jones’ 17-year-old son told Humphrey he received two messages from Michelle Jones.
“The second (message) was the sexually explicit image of the postcard that was previously described with the message that your dad is screwing his assistant,” stated Humphrey’s investigative report.
A number of the people who received Facebook messages from Michelle Jones containing the sexual images told investigators the message conveyed a statement such as “this is who your boss is screwing,” according to Humphrey’s investigative report.
“After reviewing the Facebook records that were provided by Facebook, investigator confirmed all of the allegations with regards to Michelle sending either the video and/or the image to others on Facebook,” stated Humphrey’s investigative report.
According to Humphrey’s investigative report, Danny Jones also reported receiving the two sex videos from Michelle Jones along with other messages such as, “I would like a response to you are going to handle this. I know you have a lot on your plate right now, unless you are sleeping with her too. I hate to bring law enforcement into this with your company phone being use[d] to send this, but I will if I have too.”
During questioning, Michelle Jones told investigators she obtained the two sex videos but did not view them.
“She stated that she received them on Christmas Eve and that her children were present when the video started playing,” stated Humphrey’s investigative report. “Michelle had to run out of the room to prevent them from seeing or hearing the video. The two videos consisted of Dennis and [the victim] having sex.”
According to Humphrey’s investigative report, Michelle Jones sent the images to Danny Jones and had been questioning him about his relationship with the victim.
“Michelle admits that she sent the image to several people at the office,” stated Humphrey’s investigative report.
Michelle Jones told investigators that she first received the sex video from Wall.
“Michelle stated that she was talking to Dennis [Wall] and Dennis said he should send the videos to Danny,” stated Humphrey’s investigative report. “During a second phone conversation, Dennis sent the videos to Michelle. Michelle admits that she sent the entire videos to Danny.”
Michelle Jones told investigators she did not have the phone on which she first received the sex videos, because she “threw it away.” Michelle Jones told investigators the only person she sent the two sex videos to was Danny Jones.
“Michelle stated that after she sent the videos to Danny, Danny’s attorney, Dion Young texted her and told her that she didn’t need to be sending that stuff,” stated Humphrey’s investigative report. “Michelle claims that she didn’t know she could get into trouble.”
During an interview with investigators, Wall said he heard “about the passing around of sex video(s) and image(s) from ‘people’ at United Home Health.”
“Dennis does admit that he sent two sex videos of he and [the victim] to Michelle,” stated Humphrey’s investigative report. “Dennis’ explanation as to why he sent them to Michelle was because they were comparing what Michelle received to the video....Dennis claims that he had previously sent the videos to [the victim] because she had asked for them. Dennis recalled that this occurred back when the video was recorded. Dennis also claims that during a conversation with [the victim], she threatened to send the videos to his ex and in return Dennis said that he was going to send them to her ex.”
In a follow-up interview in late February 2018, Michelle Jones told investigators she and Wall agreed to get rid of their phones because of possible criminal charges.
“Dennis told Michelle that they needed to get rid of the phones,” stated Humphrey’s investigative report. “Michelle questioned Dennis about why she needed to because everybody knows she sent the images and videos. Dennis advised that it was a felony and the phones needed to be gotten rid of.”
In January 2018, Michelle Jones admitted she was trying to obtain other sexual images of the victim.
“Michelle admits that on January 9, 2018, she was still trying to get sex images of [the victim] for the purposes of she thought it could ‘help us in this,’ ” stated Humphrey’s investigative report. “The pictures were allegedly being passed around FNB (First National Bank). Michelle admits to the conversation about getting these additional inappropriate images from ‘Charlie Simpson.’ ”
Michelle Jones told investigators she sent the pictures to “everyone” because she was “mad and upset.”