The Columbus attorney who is challenging the incumbent in the Democratic Primary race for the Muscogee County District Attorney’s office has been arrested for two DUIs since September 2015.
Mark P. Jones is running against Julia Slater, who was elected as DA in 2008.
According to information obtained under Georgia’s Open Records Act, the 38-year-old Jones was first arrested on September 12, 2015 and charged with DUI. He refused to take three sobriety tests when requested to do so by law enforcement.
He pleaded guilty April 8, 2016 to that DUI charge. Speeding and failure to yield charges connected with the same incident were dismissed.
Jones got a second DUI charge on November 11, 2019. That case is pending. The Muscogee County State Court prosecutor has recused themselves in that case and it is being handled by the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, said Muscogee County Solicitor General Suzanne Goddard.
Multiple attempts to contact Jones on Tuesday morning were unsuccessful. He texted back that he could not talk right now.
News 3 reviewed nearly two hours of Columbus Police dashcam video of Jones’ 2015 arrest.
He was pulled over by a Columbus Police officer Aaron Evrard at Manchester Expressway and University Avenue about 8:15 p.m on September 12, 2015.
“The driver had a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his person,” according to the arrest report.
Jones declined to take three separate sobriety tests in connection with the arrest; a field sobriety test shortly after the traffic stop, the preliminary breath test at the site of the arrest, and, once transported to the Muscogee County Jail, he refused an Intoxilyzer test.
According to Georgia law, someone will be subjected to mandatory penalties if they refuse to submit to a breath, blood or urine test at a law enforcement officer’s request.
Multiple times during the arrest, Jones asked to speak to his attorney, telling Evrard he was represented by Columbus defense lawyer Richard Hagler. On Monday, Hagler says he did not then and has never represented Jones.
After asking for an attorney, Jones continued to talk to the police.
“I protect y’all,” he told the officers.
He also said he had just left a hotel, “trying to get away from a situation.”
At one point Jones told the police, “Hey, man, do what you got to do. If you got to arrest me, arrest me.”
That back and forth continued in the patrol car as Jones was taken to the jail.
He called the action “illegal” and asked what was the “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion” for his arrest.
A DUI conviction does not disqualify someone from seeking the district attorney’s office. A felony conviction would bar someone from holding the office. A DUI is not a felony.
Jones is on the ballot for the Democratic nomination against Slater in next month’s primary election. Barring an unforeseen circumstance, the winner of the Democratic primary will be the district attorney in 2021 because no Republican has qualified for the office.
Slater represents the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. It includes Muscogee, Harris, Talbot, Taylor, Marion, and Chattahoochee counties.
Jones’ DUI arrests “were common knowledge in the legal community,” said Slater in a Monday statement to News 3.
Asked about the arrests, Slater’s email read, “I think it is extremely important for the District Attorney to respect the law.”