Man charged as drug kingpin to represent himself at trial

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Local,DC,Crime,Naomi Jagoda

A man whose conviction as a drug kingpin was vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a plea deal on Thursday and will represent himself at his upcoming retrial.

Antoine Jones, who operated a D.C. nightclub, is accused of being involved in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine that reached the city from Mexico. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Tuesday in D.C. federal court.

On Thursday, Jones said he wanted to "go ahead and go to trial," despite the fact that he had been offered a plea deal in which he would have receive a sentence ranging from 15 to 20 years in prison. If convicted at trial, Jones could be sentenced to life in prison.

Jones, 52, also asked to represent himself in his trial because he wants to be in control of his case.

"I don't think that [my lawyer] had confidence in my decisions," said Jones, who was wearing an orange jail uniform.

Judge Ellen Huvelle said that "it's very unusual" for a defendant to represent himself in a criminal case. She advised Jones against representing himself, saying that the choice would be "just short of shooting yourself in the foot."

But although Huvelle said she didn't think Jones could effectively represent himself, she determined that he was mentally competent to waive his right to be represented by an attorney.

"He wants his case his way," Huvelle said.

Jones' first trial in the case resulted in a hung jury. He was convicted in his second trial and sentenced to life in prison, but a federal appeals court overturned his conviction. The Supreme Court then affirmed the appeals court's decision, finding fault with law enforcement's use of a GPS device that had been installed in Jones' Jeep without a warrant.

But some evidence with ties to the device can still be used at Jones' upcoming trial. GPS tracking connected Jones to an alleged stash house in Fort Washington that contained $850,000 in cash, 97 kilograms of cocaine and 1 kilogram of cocaine base. Huvelle ruled last month that prosecutors could still use the evidence seized from the house because authorities would have discovered it even if they had not used the GPS device.

njagoda@washingtonexaminer.com

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