In August of 2015, Paul Jones and his 19-year-old son, Grayson, were driving from Georgia to California when they were pulled over by the California Highway Patrol on Interstate 80 near Truckee, California. The officer alleged that their car was “straddling the white line” on the right-hand side of the road. The police video did not show any such activity.
Once the stop was made, the Highway Patrol officer called in a “drug dog”, and it allegedly alerted to the presence of drugs, which gave the officers probable cause to search the vehicle. In the rear of the hatchback, the officers discovered a carry-on suitcase containing $489,000 in cash.
Paul and Grayson were separated and questioned without Miranda warnings. They both said they were on a father-son trip to California, looking to buy property, as Grayson was getting married in May and starting summer classes near their home at the University of Georgia. The Joneses said it was family money to buy property, and that the Joneses own several rental homes in and around Rome, Georgia.
The money was seized by the police under Civil Forfeiture Laws, and not long thereafter, they were each charged with a felony as well for possession of money in excess of $100,000 for the unlawful purchase and sale of a controlled substance.
The Joneses were unable to pay for legal services as their life savings were now in a government bank account. Local Truckee attorneys Ravn Whittington and John Ward took the case because the DKT Liberty Project agreed to support their criminal defense by paying their legal fees.
After a year and a half of attorney negotiations, the California authorities finally decided to drop the criminal charges against Paul and Grayson Jones. The threat of a felony conviction is now gone.
Ravn Whittington sent this note to the Liberty Project:
I would like to thank you, Phil, and the entire DKT Liberty Project organization for the knowledge, kindness, and support you have extended to Paul, Grayson, and myself over the course of the last two years. Without the Liberty Project’s support, it is unlikely that Paul and Grayson would have obtained a full dismissal of the criminal charges that were unjustly brought against them. Instead, as is the unfortunate reality for many, Paul and Grayson would have likely been forced to accept criminal liability in order to receive a pittance of their unlawfully seized assets. Now, and because of DKT Liberty Project’s support, the government is without the leverage of a criminal case. Paul and Grayson are free to pursue a full recovery of their money. DKT made this victory possible by financing Paul’s and Grayson’s ability to challenge the prosecution on every issue and to unequivocally establish there would be no criminal conviction without a fight.
DKT’s support also resulted in a published state appellate opinion, Jones v. Superior Court (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 390, whereby we were successful in preventing the biased local judge from presiding over the case. This decision provides needed clarity to the State’s judicial peremptory challenge process. It is fair to say that the results thus far have been remarkable, and that is due in no small part to DKT Liberty Project’s remarkable support.
You should know that when I tell people about DKT’s involvement in this case, I am usually met with disbelief. I am often asked, “Why would DKT involve itself?” Or “What’s in it for DKT?” People find it hard to believe that there exists an organization willing and able to challenge governmental overreaching on both a policy and individual level. To me, that disbelief speaks bounds for DKT. You are out there providing support where others do not, helping those who cannot help themselves – those who have neither the resources nor the luxury of time to achieve systemic policy change. For that service, both broadly and in our particular matter, I commend and thank DKT Liberty Project.