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Clayton police officer awaits sentencing after 'guilty' verdicts

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A Clayton County Police officer will have to wait another month before he finds out what punishment he will face after being found guilty of alcohol-and speeding-related charges in DeKalb County, a spokesman for the DeKalb County Solicitor General's office said on Monday.

A DeKalb County jury found Officer Martin Christopher Jones, 39, guilty on Friday, in State Court, of speeding, and "Driving With an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration" (DWUAC), in relation to his Nov. 15 arrest on Interstate 20, in Lithonia, said Erik Burton, the public information officer for the DeKalb County Solicitor General's Office.

A DeKalb police report shows that Jones was driving 40 miles per hour over the speed limit, and registered a .115 blood-alcohol level on a breathalyzer test.

Burton added that Jones was found not guilty of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) "Less Safe," and reckless driving. The public information officer said sentencing for the Clayton County police officer has been set for Sept. 30, in DeKalb County State Court.

"Mr. Jones could face a maximum of 12 months in jail for the speeding count," Burton said. "He could also face up to 12 months in jail for the DWUAC count."

Jones' future with the Clayton County Police Department will remain uncertain until after he is sentenced in DeKalb County. Clayton County police spokesman, Officer Otis Willis, III, said the department considers Jones' case to be "under investigation" and will not comment on any specific discipline Jones has already faced, or may face in the future, until it receives paperwork for the final disposition of his court case.

Willis did say, however, that Jones has been placed on administrative duty, while his case remains open in DeKalb County.

DeKalb County Police Officer T.P. Dunn wrote in his report on Jones' arrest that he saw Jones speeding in a car, eastbound on Interstate 20 at around 2:32 a.m., on Nov. 15, 2009. Dunn wrote that his laser radar detector showed Jones' vehicle was moving at 105 miles per hour, in a 65 miles per hour zone.

According to Dunn, after he pulled Jones over, he noticed the Clayton County Police officer's speech was slurred, his eyes were bloodshot and glazed, he swayed while standing, had a strong odor of alcohol on him, and fumbled while trying to get out his wallet.

"Upon making these observations, I asked Mr. Jones how much had he been drinking, and he stated a few drinks," Dunn wrote in his report. Dunn wrote that Jones also told him he was going to see his girlfriend, and was coming from a fight party, at an undisclosed location.

Jones' attorney, William Head, said the girlfriend lived in Rockdale County, and the party Jones came from was held "somewhere west" of where he was pulled over. Head added that Jones went to the party after getting off duty, from his police job.

Dunn wrote in his report that Jones was not wearing his uniform when he was pulled over, but the Clayton County police officer did show his police badge to the DeKalb County officer.

Head also explained that Jones was speeding because he needed to get his girlfriend's home quickly. "He was on his way to his girlfriend's place, and he was late, so he was in a hurry to get there," the attorney said.

Dunn said he conducted some field sobriety tests on Jones, including a horizontal gaze test, and a breathalyzer test. The DeKalb County police officer added that, prior to the field sobriety tests, Jones told him he had recently had knee surgery, and had suffered a brain injury while serving in Iraq.

Head said Jones had served in the Army, including a tour in Iraq, during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and during more recent tours in Afghanistan, and a return to Iraq. The attorney said his client suffered brain injuries, and got shrapnel in his knees during roadside bomb attacks, while serving in the Middle East.

"My client was probably blown up 15 to 16 times while he was serving in the military," Head said. The attorney said the brain injuries Jones sustained in some of those attacks affected his performance on the horizontal gaze test.

But, DeKalb Police Officer Dunn wrote the breathalyzer test Jones took showed he had a .115 blood-alcohol level. "The legal limit is .08," said DeKalb County Solicitor General's Office Spokesman Burton. Burton also explained the "Driving With an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration" charge came from the breathalyzer test results.

Dunn also wrote, in his report, that some alcohol was found in Jones' car. "Upon checking his vehicle, two plastic cups were located, with one containing a small amount of an unknown type alcohol," Dunn wrote.

But, Head said there is medical explanation for the breathalyzer test results, as well. He said that a physical exam -- while Jones was preparing for trial -- yielded a discovery that the Clayton County police officer had Reactive Hyperglycemia, which leads to his body producing isopropyl alcohol to help break down carbohydrates after meals.

"That's why the breathalyzer test said there was alcohol in his system," Head said. The attorney admitted his client had consumed some cognac at the party, however, and attributed the cups in Jones' car to that drink. Head said he will seek a new trial for his client, after sentencing is completed.

The attorney said he was seeking a new trial because he did not get to provide all of the medical evidence, and show all of the videos of Jones in roadside bomb attacks, that he wanted to present at last week's hearing.

While Jones waits for his sentencing hearing to take place, Head said his client's main focus is remaining a Clayton County police officer. "Right now, he's trying to keep his job," the attorney said. "If I can help it, he won't lose his job. I've explained his medical condition to his supervisors ... I just hope they'll give me time to get a new hearing, and try and clear his name."