Attorneys for Precinct 3 McLennan County Commissioner Will Jones are attempting to have felony arrest warrants that were issued last week against Jones by a Caldwell County justice of the peace thrown out.
The warrants were obtained by former sheriff’s deputy R.S. Gates, who said he filed two arrest warrant affidavits charging Jones with engaging in organized criminal activity because he was not satisfied with how the state attorney general’s office handled a plea agreement with Jones last month. The AG’s office took over after McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna recused his office.
Jones pleaded guilty to Class A misdemeanor offering a gift to a public servant and was placed on deferred adjudication probation for a year. He also was fined $4,000 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.
The new warrants charge that Jones lied when he signed his oath of office and an anti-bribery statement in January because he knew he was under investigation for bribery at the time by Texas Rangers.
To make a case for engaging in organized criminal activity, Gates alleged that the person who administered Jones’ oath of office and the notary who signed it conspired with Jones to file a government record with knowledge of its falsity. However, the warrants were issued only for Jones.
Jones has not been arrested, nor has he surrendered himself at the jail on the new charges.
One of Jones’ attorneys, Jim Dunnam, called the charges ridiculous last week.
Dunnam and Michael Peck, another of Jones’ attorneys, filed a motion Wednesday afternoon with Caldwell County Justice of the Peace Ben Brady, of Maxwell, that seeks to quash the charges against Jones. Brady issued the warrant last week after Gates drove more than two hours to Maxwell and presented him with the charging documents.
Jones’ motion to quash alleges the affidavit supporting the arrest warrant “does not contain sufficient facts for an independent finding of probable cause by the magistrate in that it fails to set forth the elements essential for the offense in question.”
The motion also charges that the warrant fails to sufficiently describe the basis of the charge against Jones and that it attempts to charge him with acts alleged to have occurred outside the jurisdiction of the Caldwell County court.
“The complaint alleges that a combination existed if the defendant agreed with one or more persons and that a true “combination” requires three or more people. . . . In other words, there must be three or more people; however, two or more of those three members must agree to commit an overt act for it to create a violation of a statute,” the motion states.
“The complaint/affidavit fails to state what overt act or acts constituted a combination. The mere ministerial act of notarizing and signing a document is conclusory and provides insufficient information to provide probable cause to issue a warrant or that a combination existed.”
Dunnam said he also will be pursuing other procedural avenues in an attempt to get the charges dropped.
While Gates is a certified peace officer, it is very unusual for someone other than a commissioned law enforcement officer working for a police agency to obtain an arrest warrant. It is also unusual that Brady, the JP in Caldwell County, set a $10,000 bond but ordered Jones to be brought before a magistrate in McLennan County to answer the charges.
Gates said this week that he filed the new charges because he thought Jones would be removed from office after pleading guilty.
Texas law requires officeholders convicted of crimes involving official misconduct to resign from office, but Jones will not have a conviction if he completes his deferred adjudication probation and can remain in office.
The new charges, if they are pursued, will not affect Jones’ status on probation because the offenses are alleged to have been committed before Jones was placed on probation, officials said.
“The problem I see is the commissioner is compromised by being on probation,” Gates said Tuesday. “People can come up to him now and say they are going to expose this or he is going to have to do this or they will make sure he goes back to jail. I don’t think there is anybody in the world who thinks he needs to go to prison over this. The reality is he has learned his lesson, he is not going to do it again, and that is the reason for the whole thing.”
Jones said last week he was shocked to learn of the warrants and said the issue of whether he offered to refund Ben Matus’ filing fee if Matus dropped out of the Republican primary was resolved by his guilty plea last month.
“I have no idea what is going on,” Jones said last week. “I have never been to Caldwell County before except to drive through and eat lunch at Lockhart. I have no idea why somebody would do this. I really have no reason for it. We don’t know what it is about. I certainly have never participated in any organized crime. That is for certain. You can obviously get a judge to do anything, but I have done nothing. I am serving my time on probation.”