Suspect in drug case represents himself at third trial

Charges refiled after mistrial, GPS ruling

At its heart, it’s still a drug case. While it is now associated with a landmark Supreme Court ruling regarding the government’s use of GPS tracking, prosecutors are again trying to prove that a former D.C. nightclub owner acted as a drug kingpin.

Opening statements in the case against Antoine Jones are scheduled to resume Monday, after government lawyers on Friday laid out details normal for many drug conspiracy cases — including how police believe Mr. Jones bought and sold large quantities of cocaine. Prosecutors plan to link Mr. Jones to a drug stash house in Fort Washington and said his former conspirators would be testifying against him in hopes of better deals in their own criminal cases.

“The defendant was their best customer. He bought the vast majority of the kilos of cocaine they brought up from Mexico,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Courtney Spivey Urshel said of several Texas drug dealers who sold to Mr. Jones.

Overall, authorities seized 97 kilos of cocaine and $850,000 in cash.

But Mr. Jones‘ case has a storied history far from that of the typical drug case. Arrested in 2005, his first trial ended in a mistrial and a second trial resulted in a conviction and a life sentence, which the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned. A Supreme Court ruling last year thrust Mr. Jones‘ case into the national spotlight, when justices upheld the decision that authorities had violated his rights by attaching a GPS to his wife’s Jeep in order to track his movements.

In unanimously upholding the reversal of Mr. Jones‘ conviction, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the installation of a GPS device “constitutes a ‘search’” under the Fourth Amendment and that authorities had overstepped their bounds by placing the device on the vehicle without obtaining a search warrant.

As a result of the ruling, GPS data will not be allowed as evidence in the current case, which is expected to be heard over a number of weeks in U.S. District Court in the District before Judge Ellen S. Huvelle. Instead, prosecutors will introduce evidence from another type of surveillance activity — tracking of individuals through cellphone location data.

Mr. Jones, who has remained in jail since his original conviction, will represent himself in the case and is expected to give his own opening statement Monday.

Friday’s hearing gave some indication how the trial will flow, with a U.S. marshal following Mr. Jones around the courtroom as he spoke to Judge Huvelle on several administrative matters.

He raised complaints Friday after the jury had been excused that information the government provided him about his case was too heavily redacted and also about the quality of meals he received in jail.

“This is new to me, and I’ve been up studying and the lunch they give us is just bologna sandwiches,” Mr. Jones said.

On the matter of the evidence, Judge Huvelle explained to Mr. Jones that he could have access to the unredacted documents while at the courthouse but would not be allowed to take them back to the jail. Of the meals, the judge said Mr. Jones‘ family was welcome to bring him meals but, she joked, “We’re not running a Marriott here.”

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