Ronald E. Jones, convicted on counts of conspiracy to distribute heroin and possession with the intent to distribute, along with a firearms charge, has been denied an appeal by the United States Court of Appeals’ Eighth District. Jones had argued that his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choice and his constitutional right to be present at critical stages of his trial.
In January 2007, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency began investigating a heroin distribution network moving kilograms of the drug from San Diego to St. Louis, Missouri. Phone wiretaps intercepted conversations between Jones and his San Diego supplier concerning the dispatch by Jones of a courier to San Diego to receive the drugs, who then delivered them to be broken down into small quantities for resale.
He was charged in June of 2008 and retained Rosenblum, Schwartz, Rogers & Glass, P.C. as his defense counsel. In October of that year, Jones moved to suppress any electronic evidence, a move that was denied the following April. In September 2009, a grand jury added a weapons charge related to a firearm another individual who was arrested claimed had been provided to him by Jones.
A week before his October 26, 2009 trial date, Jones motioned for a continuance of the trial and requested to substitute counsel, stating that his lawyers had refused to file a motion to suppress information about the gun as he’d requested, and that they also refused to make a second attempt to ban incriminating wiretap recordings from the trial. He also claimed his lawyers were unprepared to defend him.
In response, lawyers stated that they were prepared for trial, and that the attempt to suppress the wiretap evidence would be fruitless, given the first denial of the motion. The continuance was denied, and a seven day trial commenced as scheduled.
During deliberation, the jury asked to hear several of the wiretapped recordings. Jones’ attorney agreed to be absent from the courtroom as the tapes were replayed after asking for assurances the correct conversations would be heard, and in the correct order. The appeals court later ruled the precautions taken to ensure proper procedure were sufficient.
After several hours of deliberation, the jury found Jones guilty and he was sentenced to a total 295 months in prison.