After more than seven years behind bars, Antoine Jones is still technically an innocent man. But after two hung juries and one conviction overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, Jones is once again awaiting trial.
“You have a person who’s inexperienced and you have two well-experienced prosecutors with paralegals sitting at the table and FBI detectives,” says Jones.
Acting as his own lawyer and with a 12th grade education, he took on the feds in a U.S. district courtroom and fought them to a draw last month, a 6 to 6 hung jury.
“No evidence of drugs on me, with me, in my Jeeps, nowhere. But they expect a jury to convict me,” says Jones.
Jones hasn’t been free since his arrest in October 2005 when he owned two D.C. nightclubs, Kilis Kafe in Northwest and Levels in Northeast. Police stopped Levels manager Lawrence Maynard for speeding in Jones’ minivan and found $69,000 in cash inside.
“I have two clubs. I deal with cash money,” says Jones.
A later raid of a house in Fort Washington yielded nearly $2 million in cash and cocaine. Agents said it was Jones’ stash house and that a GPS they secretly put on his Jeep proved he’d been there.
“That house had no ties or relationship to me at all,” says Jones.
At his first trial in 2006, a jury acquitted Jones of 33 charges, but hung up on one conspiracy charge. At his second trial in 2008, another jury found him guilty of that conspiracy count. A judge sentenced him to life in prison, but then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the GPS device agents put on his car without a warrant, linking him to the drug house, violated the Fourth Amendment. His conviction was overturned.
In January, prosecutors launched a third trial and Jones didn’t like his court-appointed lawyer.
“If your lawyer don’t have confidence in you and your lawyer’s going to sell you out you need to and fight for yourself,” says Jones.
U.S. attorney Ron Machen has declined all comment, except a statement that his office plans to try Jones a fourth time.
“They know I’m a fighter. If I have to fight a fourth trial, a fifth trial, a sixth trial, I’m going to fight until the end,” Jones says.
A former prosecutor says the evidence against Jones is so strong it’s amazing six jurors voted to acquit him. A date for his fourth trial has not been set. Jones has waived his right to a speedy trial, saying he wants time to look for a lawyer he can trust.