WAXAHACHIE — An investigation conducted by the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office has found that Precinct 4 Constable Mike Jones is alleged to have remotely purged his county-issued iPhone and iCloud after it was seized as evidence.
According to a petition for removal from office filed by Ellis County and District Attorney Patrick Wilson on Feb. 27, two computers and an Apple iPhone issued by the county to Jones remained in the secure possession of Wilson's office until they were transported to a forensic laboratory for analysis. The three items were seized on May 3, 2016.
In October 2016, the forensic laboratory notified the district attorney’s office that Jones’ county issued iPhone had been remotely erased and all data on the phone had been deleted.
“On Dec. 6, 2016, in response to a lawfully executed search warrant, Apple provided my office with the exact date and time on which Jones’ Ellis County-issued iPhone was remotely erased through the company’s iCloud. Apple also provided the internet protocol address from which the command to remotely erase the iPhone was sent,” stated Wilson in the petition. “According to the information from Apple, Constable Jones’ Ellis County-issued iPhone was remotely erased on May 3, 2016, at 7:05 p.m. after the iPhone was taken into my office’s possession. The command to erase the phone was sent from email address email@example.com, the personal email address of Mike Jones.”
The petition also stated that, on Jan. 18, AT&T provided the district attorney’s office with the physical address and subscriber information connected to the IP address from which the command to erase the county issued iPhone was sent. The subscriber information and physical address both belonged to Jones. The address was his personal residence in Midlothian.
According to a Feb. 10 Daily Light article, Jones was indicted by the Ellis County Grand Jury on the charge of tampering or fabricating physical evidence with intent to impair. The warrant for arrest issued by the 443rd Judicial District Court Thursday, Feb. 9 also notes Jones turned himself into Midlothian Police on day of its issuance at 3 p.m.
Before the tampering charge, Jones was indicted by an Ellis County Grand Jury for allegedly abusing his official capacity, which is a Class A misdemeanor, according to the original Daily Light article published May 16, 2016.
The indictment states the constable misused government property for his personal for-profit business and during his re-election campaign. According to the court documents, the property included an Ellis County issued smartphone, computer, email service, and vehicle, along with the services of county employees.
“On Feb. 9, 2016, a citizen of Ellis County appeared in my office to make a complaint against Constable Mike Jones. In support of the complaint, the citizen provided purchasing records from Ellis County, which had been obtained through the Texas Public Information Act. The citizen also provided copies of Constable Jones’ campaign finance reports as well as screenshots from social media pages belonging to Constable Jones,” Wilson wrote in the petition for removal. “At that point in time, Jones was engaged in a contested political campaign. He was seeking re-election at the March 1, 2016, republican primary. There was no other challenger for the November 2016 general election.”
The petition stated that to help finance his campaign Jones produced and sold decals and T-shirts of his original design and were for sale on his social media pages.
“The nature of the citizens complaint against Constable Jones was to investigate whether Jones had used public funds to purchase the equipment and supplies necessary to produce the decals and T-shirts Jones sold for his political campaign,” Wilson elaborated. “Among the documents provided by the citizen were Ellis County Purchasing documents, which showed that Jones had, in fact, used public resources to purchase equipment and supplies which could be used in the manufacture of custom decals and T-shirts. Jones’ finance reports failed to report any expenses or income related to the production of the decals and T-shirts, as required by law.”
Wilson stated that Jeff Ward, the district attorney’s office chief investigator, was assigned to investigate the matter. Jones told Ward that the equipment purchased with county funds was used only for the manufacture of t-shirts and signage used in the official capacity of his office. The equipment was used to create “Constable” shirts for Jones, his deputies and reserve officers, along with signage to promote public safety.
The petition stated that Jones told Ward he had a similar set of equipment and materials at his home that he used for the campaign and allowed Ward to view them.
“After investigating the matter that was first reported to my office by an Ellis County citizen on Feb. 9, 2016, I was satisfied that, while Constable Jones’ use of public money to purchase equipment and supplies for making decals and T-shirts for a two-person office could certainly be questioned from a practical standpoint, that use did not violate any laws,” Wilson stated in the petition. “At the time I was further satisfied that Jones had separately purchased the equipment and supplies, which he used to manufacture t-shirts and decals he produced for the benefit of his political campaign. On March 8, 2016, I personally advised the complainant that no criminal charges would arise from the original complaint. That should have been the end of the matter. “
Wilson stated that during the investigation, Jones voluntarily provided Ward an email that he said would support his claim that his decal and T-shirt business was not improperly commingled with county resources. The email was forwarded to Ward by Jones though the county email system on Feb. 17, 2016.
“The email provided by Jones was a communication with a commercial merchandising company. In the communication, Jones discussed his order for multiple t-shirts in multiple sizes, all of which displayed the custom design that Jones sold for the benefit of his political campaign,” Wilson stated. “Jones' communication originated from his Ellis County email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email that Jones provided to Investigator Ward, Jones stated to the merchandising vendor, ‘I will use the Ellis County Tax number too for no tax like Johnny.’ ‘Johnny’ is Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown.
"The email provided by Jones proves that Jones used his county email to conduct personal and political campaign business and that he may have used his status as a tax-exempt elected office holder to benefit his political campaign. The email triggered further investigation by my office.”
The petition stated the second investigation found that Jones misused county resources to benefit his political campaign many times.
“On several occasions, Jones sent voter lists from his county email to a county email address assigned to Ken Singleton, who is Jones’ sole employee, to email addresses assigned to reserve deputies that worked for Jones’s office and to email addresses assigned to other county employees,” the petition stated. “ Jones’ wife is also employed by Ellis County. Jones and his wife used their respective Ellis County email addresses to exchange spreadsheets and invoices related to the financial operation of Jones’ political campaign. Jones used his Ellis County email as the point of contact for operating a ‘Go Fund Me’ web page dedicated to raising money for his political campaign.”
Jones is set to appear in the 443rd Judicial District Court for his arraignment on the charge of tampering or fabricating physical evidence with intent to impair on Tuesday, March 7. The arraignment is set to take place at 9 a.m. During an arraignment, a charge is formerly presented to the defendant, and they can enter a plea.
Jones will also appear in the 443rd Judicial District Court again at 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 9 for his final pretrial hearing on the charge of abusing his official capacity.
Jones, who has served 17 years in law enforcement and is a 21-year veteran of the United States Marines, was re-elected as Ellis County Pct. 4 Constable on March 1, 2016.
The Ellis County Courts and Administration Building is located at 109 S. Jackson St. in downtown Waxahachie. Free parking is available in the parking garage next to the building.
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