COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) –– During opening statements of the felony property damage charges case against Muscogee County District Attorney Mark Jones, defense attorney Chris Breault left no doubt how he plans to attack the charges.
In a 45-minute opening statement, Breault started by lashing out at the Columbus establishment, which he said was determined to keep Jones from being elected district attorney in 2020, then when he was elected was determined to knee-cap him in office.
“I don’t think there could be a case that could be more Columbus than this case,” Breault said. ” And I don’t mean that in a good way. And by the end of this trial, you will see what I am talking about.”
Jones defeated incumbent Julia Slater in the Democratic primary in June 2020. There was no Republican opposition.
Jones is a Texas native who moved to Columbus 13 years ago after graduating from the University of Georgia Law School.
“He’s an outsider,” Breault said. “And he’s not part of this good, old boy club you see here in Columbus.”
Jones and co-defendant Erik Whittington are accused of damaging the Civic Center parking lot on May 17, 2020 during the taping of a campaign rap video. Vehicles did “donuts” in the parking lot, leaving black marks.
The state is alleging the act damaged the parking lot. Originally, the damage was believed to be more than $300,000. The city is now claiming the damage was closer to $2,500.
A six-man, six-woman jury was seated just after 1 p.m. Monday. Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Monroe of Macon is trying the case. Jury selection, because of the pandemic, was held at the Civic Center Ice Rink.
The trial will start at 3 p.m. in the Government Center.
The judge and prosecutor Brian Patterson of Athens were assigned to handle the case against the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit’s top prosecutor.
Patterson told the jury during his opening statement that the state would prove that Jones was guilty.
“No one is above the law,” Patterson said. “Period.”
William Kendrick, representing Whittington, joined Breault in attacking those who opposed Jones, the Columbus Police Department, and the city, saying they had “unclean hands.”
Jones was nodding during that part of Kendrick’s opening statement.
“Before video, Mark Jones was not considered a threat,” Kendrick said. “But after the video, we got a threat.”
The video went viral with tens of thousands of social media views.
This case is not related to the nine-count indictment handed down against Jones on Sept. 7. That indictment alleges criminal misconduct by Jones during his more than eight months in office. The trial this week concerns allegations prior to Jones taking office.
The morning was spent with Patterson asking questions about Jones and the case. Many of them told the judge they knew of the Jones case when questioned by attorneys.
Last week Chris Breault, who represents Jones, told WRBL News that Jones had been offered a deal by prosecutors to plead guilty to lesser charges in the case. Monday, Breault said that there had been talks with Patterson, but no formal offer had been extended by the state.
Whittington is being represented by
Asked about that during a Monday break, Patterson declined to comment, citing ethical rules regarding comment on an ongoing trial.
Three co-defendants did take plea deals on Sept. 3. Jonathan Justo, Chris Garner, and Chris Black all entered guilty pleas to misdemeanor charges and were sentenced to more than $1,000 each in fines and restitution.