Jury finds civil charges against Ellis County constable Mike Jones 'not true'
An Ellis County jury unanimously found four civil charges against Mike Jones to be "not true." The April 18 civil suit in the 443rd Judicial District Court strived to permanently remove Jones from his post as Ellis County Precinct 4 Constable.
Jones faced charges of tampering with evidence, misuse of official information, retaliation, and deadly conduct. These charges are related to alleged actions taken by Jones during his re-election campaign for the constable's office.
The Ellis County District Attorney’s Office first filed a civil suit against Jones to remove him from on office Feb. 27, 2017. The case was later dropped May 15, 2017. A second lawsuit to temporarily remove Jones from the office went before Dallas judge Jim Jordan in December.
Jordan ruled for Jones to be temporarily removed from office on Jan. 3.
Dan Gus, the attorney for Jones, stated it "has been my position all along from day one when this civil litigation started. There was not any unlawful behavior on the part of the constable related to his official duties. The jury agreed. It didn’t take them any real length of time to come to that decision.”
Ellis County and District Attorney Patrick Wilson stated that — while his office is dissatisfied with the verdict — the DA's office will continue forward with the criminal trial.
“The judges in both the civil and criminal cases have taken a dim view of either side making public comments. That issue has been addressed more than once,” Wilson said. “With that in mind, the only thing I will say is that we are disappointed with the verdict in last week’s civil trial, but we are moving forward with the criminal prosecution.”
Gus stated some of the evidence submitted by the district attorney’s office appeared to be questionable. He added that testimony from the Ellis County Chief Investigator Jeff Ward revealed that Ward had monitored Jones’ email without his knowledge.
“Jeff Ward had testified that he had been monitoring the constable’s emails. It did not appear that they had a warrant to do that. I think that is something that we are going to have to look at,” Gus recalled. “It raises some concerns under Texas law and federal law as well. That is something that we are going to continue to evaluate.”
Gus added that, while Jones’ emails are stored on the county’s computer servers, the district attorney’s office is not the custodian of those records.
He shared that a ruling from the Texas Attorney General's office states the elected department head remains the custodian of those records, despite the fact that the county server may be the centralized repository.
Wilson explained that a county employee should not expect privacy when it comes to a county-issued email account. He noted the emails in questions could also be obtained through a public information request as well.
Gus explained the next step is to get Jones reinstated in his role as constable.
“I have asked for the district’s attorney’s office to get him reinstated. Under the statute, Mark Howard, who is the temporary appointee....every day they pay the appointee that also have to pay that to the constable,” Gus said. “So every day that Mark Howard is in the office it is going to cost the county more money. I have encouraged appropriate action to have him reinstated immediately to cut off the losses from the taxpayers and get him back in. I have not received a response.”
Wilson stated judge Jim Jordan is the one who will determine when Jones is or is not reinstated.
Gus shared the decision reached last Wednesday does not have an impact on the criminal trial. The criminal prosecution is set to take place May 21.
Though a request for comment from Jones went unreturned, Gus stated Jones is happy with the verdict.
“I think that is an enormous relief to him. He has known it. It is now a matter of public record that 12 of his peers have said these allegations are not true,” Gus said. “He is happy that they have gotten to this point."
Editor's note: In a Facebook post by Mike Jones to the Waxahachie Daily Light Facebook page at 4:26 p.m. April 19, Jones questioned the use of his mugshot on the front page of the newspaper. Mugshots are available to the public via the Ellis County Sheriff's Office (http://elliscountysheriff.com/) after an inmate is booked.
Initially, attempts to reach Mike Jones directly went unreturned as of press time Tuesday, April 24. Jones has since issued a statement to the Daily Light, which stated, "Thank you to the 12 members of the jury who saw this for the fabrication and lies that is is based on."