Nearly a week after his surprising victory in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit district attorney’s race, Mark Jones is working on the transition to his new job.
Julia Slater has held Muscogee County’s top law enforcement office for the last 12 years. She’s out in January and Jones is in.
There is a great deal that has to happen between now and the first of the year when Jones — a political newcomer — walks into the office where there are 80 defendants awaiting murder trials.
Jones has tabbed Columbus attorney Christopher Breault to lead the transition. The DA’s office is the second largest law firm in Columbus, just behind only Page Scrantom, Sprouse, Tucker & Ford in the number of attorneys.
There are 29 assistant district attorneys and 69 people who work in that office. The annual budget is $5 million.
Breault, who also represents Jones in felony criminal property damage charges stemming from a campaign video shoot last month at the Civic Center, will help assemble the new team. That includes getting a new chief assistant district attorney in place.
Jones has made it clear he is going to shake things up in the courthouse.
“I don’t see how changing just one person at the top is going to affect the change that we need,” he told News 3 in an interview Monday afternoon.
That means staff.
“I caught some flak on that on election night when I said they were all going to have to reinterview,” Jones said. “I still stand by that. Obviously, there is some dysfunction in the office. Obviously, the cases aren’t moving. And the voters sent a clear mandate.”
Criminal justice reform is one of the reasons Jones believes he was elected with more than 52 percent of the vote. And he says Columbus has issues in its law enforcement agencies. And he will work to fix them. He said he supports the movement of change sweeping the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minnapolis.
“I think everybody sees we have some systemic problem, with systemic racism going on in our criminal justice system,” Jones said. “Not to scare law enforcement, but if you are a good cop, I am going to be there to support you. You can DM me. You can talk to me. I want to help give you policies and procedures. I want to look at your policies.”
Jones admits he ran a non-traditional campaign for the most traditional of jobs. And he said he will fight the felony charges. If convicted those charges would disqualify him from the office. Jones and three men who appeared in the campaign video have been charged by Columbus police with criminal damage to property and interfering with government property.
“We will be ready and we will have both barrels pointed at whoever wants to bring that case,” he said. “We are going to fight hard because we are not going to let anything jeopardize this DA’s seat. We took it for the people. It’s going to remain the peoples. I will make sure of that.”
Watch the full interview with Mark Jones here: