Charlottesville mall “clapper” Michael Jones had his 15 minutes of fame several years ago – a Google search for this downtown character turns up only a single story in CVille online in August 2014.
The investigative account by reporter Graelyn Brashear provides insight into Jones’s past, his wranglings with the law, and his frequent appearances on the downtown mall loudly practicing freedom of speech.
It also reveals how then-city-council member Bob Fenwick attempted to curb the loud clapping and revelating of Michael Jones walking up and down the mall, and was allegedly threatened by Jones, albeit somewhat indirectly.
Restaurants reportedly complained about Jones’s behavior, and some mall-goers claimed to be frightened of his actions, although the reported outcome of Fenwick’s complaint to a local magistrate suggests the local official was unable to establish threatening or menacing action on Jones’s part, at least any behavior that would rise to the standard of prosecution.
For the most part, that 2014 story is where the public paper trail on Michael Jones ends – but now, Leading the Horse has an exclusive update from our man on the street, Ken West, who was incarcerated along with Michael Jones over the last month in Albemarle County jail.
According to West, Jones has been locked up for four months, facing a drug charge, with a hearing another four months from now.
However, West maintains that the actions of the police in Jones’s case constitute entrapment, and that, given adequate defense or public scrutiny into his case, a number of valid defenses may be possible.
West says Jones told him that the police officer making the arrest report told him that “I can write anything I want on this paper.”
West also contends that Jones lacks legal savvy to protect himself from unfair prosecution, characterizing the clapper as “a simple man” and someone who is not very knowledgeable about the law. As a result, West says, it’s imperative that Jones receive outside assistance and advocacy, to make sure that his pending trial or other outcome is fair.
It would make sense to assume from the background information and reports in hand that Jones is one of many smalltime offenders languishing in prison due to a lack of funds for meeting bail conditions – but West insists that in this case, a judge has set no bail for Jones, because the powers that be “want to keep him off the street.”
Communications with officers at the facility have confirmed that a direct inbound phone call to an inmate is not possible: in our view, inmates routinely lack easy ways to communicate with the outside world. Those who call on the telephone to speak to inmates are asked to write a letter to establish communication, at least in our case. A private company called ICS solutions is responsible for loading money onto inmate’s call accounts – but representatives of ICS solutions told Leading the Horse in February that even with money on their phone accounts, outbound inmate calls are restricted in various ways that can deter them from easily reaching advocates and family members on the outside, without some knowledge of who is paying for their phone access.
To those who study the work of public defenders and advocacy for the many Americans serving unknown sentences with delayed trials, a number of red flags apply here. The question of bail has not been confirmed…overall, the reports that we have received require follow-up and confirmation.
Leading the Horse is encouraging newsroom staff at CVille and other local publications to look into the matter, and verify reports from the street, to shed light on what’s next for a Charlottesville resident with a unique public record.