Defendant in drug case retrial rips up indictment

WASHINGTON — A D.C. nightclub owner being retried on a drug conspiracy charge dramatically tore up a copy of his indictment at the beginning of his new trial Monday.

Antoine Jones, who is representing himself, told jurors that the indictment is nothing but a formal charge before ripping it twice.

In 2010, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Jones’ conviction and life sentence because police used a global positioning system without a warrant. The Supreme Court affirmed and barred police from installing GPS technology to track suspects without getting a judge’s approval.

Prosecutors say Jones was linked to a house where authorities found nearly $1 million in cash and nearly 100 kilograms of cocaine.

In his opening statement, Jones told jurors he might be seem nervous, but stressed that “I’m fighting for my life.”

Jones said that he used a metal detector when he was a nightclub owner, and encouraged jurors to take the same approach with government witnesses: “Take out that lie detector,” he said, and listen for the detector to make a “tic-tic-tic” sound.

“The government will paint a picture,” he said. “They’re artists.” Jones said he’d paint one too, and “you will tell which one is fake and which one is real.”

Jones wore a yellow shirt, patterned tie and no jacket as he addressed the jurors. The trial is expected to last six to seven weeks.

He said that the FBI will discuss wiretaps and display drugs and money. He said jurors should ask themselves, “What does this have to do with Mr. Jones?”

Jones said that the government never caught him selling any drugs.

In a criminal trial, prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and Jones played that up a couple of times.

“If you catch him perjuring himself,” Jones said of one government witness, “that’s the doubt … that’s the doubt you’re looking for.”

At the end of his opening statement, he held his fingers an inch apart and said, “If you see this much doubt, that much doubt, you must, you must, you must find me not guilty.”

This is actually the third trial for Jones, owner of the Levels nightclub, stemming from his arrest in 2005. A joint task force of the FBI and Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department had obtained a 10-day warrant to install a GPS device on Jones’ car in the District of Columbia but failed to use it as specified. After the warrant expired, they found Jones’ car in a lot in Maryland and installed the device, then monitored his driving patterns for 28 days.

Jones’ first trial began in 2006. That jury acquitted Jones on most charges but deadlocked on one conspiracy count. His retrial on the conspiracy charge began in late 2007, and in 2008 resulted in a conviction. The D.C. Circuit reversed in 2010, and government sought review by the Supreme Court, which affirmed in January 2012.

The police also obtained cell-site data during their investigation, but did not use it during the earlier trials because they had the more reliable GPS data. Last month, the federal judge presiding over the current trial found the cell-site data admissible.

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