- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2012

He made U.S. Supreme Court history, but former D.C. nightclub owner Antoine Jones remains behind bars even after winning a landmark decision and reversal of his drug conviction.

Back in January, when Mr. Jones successfully challenged the federal government’s use of a GPS tracking device without a warrant, prosecutors declined to say whether they would try him again, adding that they would study the court’s decision and evaluate their options.

But now, months after their defeat, prosecutors have filed court papers saying they still have evidence to convict Mr. Jones - again.

The pretrial standoff is nothing new for Mr. Jones, who faces the prospect of a third months-long drug conspiracy trial in federal court in Washington.

After his first trial ended in a mistrial, Mr. Jones was convicted in a second trial. He was sentenced to life in prison, only to have his conviction reversed after appeals.

Upholding an appeals court decision, the Supreme Court ruled in Mr. Jones’ case that police need to obtain a search warrant before installing a GPS device on private property to track a suspect.

The ruling once again sends the case back to trial in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle.

In one of several recent motions asking the judge to toss evidence from the case, Mr. Jones’ trial attorney, A. Eduardo Balarezo, argued that the GPS device that authorities installed on a Jeep Cherokee registered to Mr. Jones’ wife relayed more than 2,000 pages of data over a 28-day period about the vehicle’s location.

Citing the Supreme Court decision, Mr. Balarezo said prosecutors had argued the GPS data connected Mr. Jones to a stash house in Fort Washington where authorities found more than $850,000 and 97 kilograms of cocaine.

“The GPS data directly allowed the government to find the location … where drugs, money and witnesses were located,” Mr. Balarezo argued in court papers. “Because the seizure of Mr. Jones’ vehicle through the installation of a GPS device was unlawful, any evidence directly or indirectly derived from that illegal seizure must be suppressed as the fruit of the poisonous tree.”

The motion was just one of several filed by Mr. Balarezo seeking to have evidence suppressed. In another motion, he argued that prosecutors, spurned on GPS data, will rely on cellphone information in an attempt to show his movements and whereabouts.

But Mr. Balarezo said the so-called cell site location records, which detail which cell tower a customer uses, “must be suppressed” because the information was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizures.

Prosecutors disagree, arguing in a recent filing that money and drugs found in a stash house should be allowed into trial because “the GPS data from the vehicle tracker did not contribute in any way to determining the location of the stash house.”

Darlene Soltys, an assistant U.S. attorney, wrote in a recent filing that investigators already had information from cooperating sources and witnesses that Mr. Jones was using various locations other than his home and nightclub to store drugs.

Agents focused on a block on Potomac Drive in Fort Washington as one likely location for a stash house after asking an employee at Nextel, a cellphone company, to request GPS information for a cellphone used by one of the defendants, according to prosecutors.

Next, an FBI agent narrowed the list to two suspected houses, both rental properties, before physical surveillance helped lead investigators to a single property on the block, Ms. Soltys said.

Later, agents set up a video camera at another address that taped Mr. Jones’ Jeep coming and going from the address where agents later found drugs and cash.

According to prosecutors, investigators didn’t need GPS data to find the stash house.

“Even if the GPS data from the defendant’s vehicle had played some role in determining the stash house at … Potomac Drive - which it did not - the investigators found the house independently of the GPS data and would have inevitably found it if there had been no GPS data,” Ms. Soltys said.

• Jim McElhatton can be reached at jmcelhatton@washingtontimes.com.

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