Georgia DA Already Charged for Parking Lot Donuts Now Accused of Trying to Frame Man for Murder

·3 min read
Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office
Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office

A colorful Georgia district attorney who was criminally charged for shooting a video of supporters doing donuts around him in an arena parking lot is in trouble yet again.

On Tuesday, Chattahoochee Circuit District Attorney Mark Jones, who took office in January, was indicted on nine counts of criminal misconduct during his brief time in office.

This time, Jones, 40, is accused of trying to influence a police officer’s testimony in a murder trial, offering bribes to prosecutors in his office, and trying to influence the testimony of the victim of a crime.

Jones did not respond to a request for comment.

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According to his indictment, Jones allegedly attempted on July 7 to influence the testimony of Columbus Police Corporal Sherman Hayes in an upcoming trial over the shooting death of 18-year-old Sara Holtrop.

WTVM reported that Columbus Police believed Holtrop was accidentally shot by 20-year-old Elijah Farral in her home. Farral was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct. But Jones, according to his indictment, allegedly told Hayes to testify that Farral believed Holtrop was cheating on him, so as to provide a motive for the murder and increase the odds of a conviction.

Hayes did not respond to a request for comment.

Jones is also accused of attempting to bribe two prosecutors in his office. According to his indictment, Jones allegedly offered prosecutor Sheneka Jones Terry a $1,000 bribe to get a murder conviction. He also allegedly offered Kimberly Schwartz a separate $1,000 bribe to announce that a murder case was ready for trial when it wasn’t.

It is unclear if these bribes were in connection to the case against Farral. The Georgia Attorney General’s office declined to provide further details about Jones’ indictment.

Jones is also accused of threatening and “misleading” the victim of a crime in order to “influence and prevent” their testimony.

If convicted, he could face more than 30 years in prison.

“It is important for the citizens of Georgia to know that our office will not hesitate to enforce the rule of law, including when it involves the actions of a public official,” said Attorney General Chris Carr in a statement announcing the charges.

After bonding out of jail late Tuesday night, Jones denied the allegations. “I did not do what they say I did,” he told WTVM. “I’ve never taken a bribe, never tried to influence a witness. I’ve never tried to get someone to testify untruthfully.”

Next week, Jones is set to begin trial for a separate set of charges stemming from a campaign video he cut while running for the DA job in 2020.

A video released in May 2020 shows Jones in a suit surrounded by supporters outside the Columbus Civic Center. “Freedom and legalize weed, the people’s DA who we need,” a local music artist raps in the video. Later, Jones stands in the center of the parking lot while a sedan whips around doing donuts and leaving tire marks in the ground.

Days later, Jones and three other men were charged for causing damage to the parking lot while shooting the video, which allegedly was not permitted. Although the three other men have already pleaded guilty to their charges, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Jones is set to stand trial for his charges on Sept. 13.

After his release from jail in May 2020, Jones held a rally in which he said a vote for him was a vote for the legalization of weed. “As DA you can’t legalize it per se,” he said in a video capturing the rally, “but you can do certain things. But you know we obviously want people to obey the law.”

Before running for DA, Jones was previously criminally charged for driving under the influence. In 2015, he was arrested and charged with a DUI, according to WRBL. He pleaded guilty to that charge but was charged with a second DUI in November 2019. That case remains pending.

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