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Accused Rapist Was On Furlough Deputy Prosecutor, Judge Approved Release Of ‘Career Criminal’

Thu., Aug. 15, 1996

A Spokane man described as a “career criminal” is accused of raping a 14-year-old girl - two days after he was furloughed from jail with the approval of a top county prosecutor.

James Edward Jones was arrested at his mother’s South Hill home before dawn Friday, shortly after the girl reported being raped in a detached garage outside the house.

The victim told police Jones had slapped, choked and threatened to kill her before pulling off her pants and twice forcing her to have intercourse.

The girl lives two blocks away and knows Jones, her mother said Wednesday.

“That’s not right. That’s not right for him to be out like that,” the woman said. “Something needs to be done about this guy.”

Jones, 44, who has a lengthy criminal record, was furloughed Aug. 6 from the Spokane County Jail. At the time, he was awaiting sentencing for first-degree theft and was suspected of committing an unrelated robbery.

One day earlier, Deputy Prosecutor Kathryn Lee, who supervises the office’s major crimes unit, signed the proposed order granting Jones’ 8-day release. So did Jones’ attorney, George Caplan.

Superior Court Judge James Murphy later approved the furlough, thinking Jones was only a small-time thief.

But Jones is well-known to Spokane County law enforcement, with a string of convictions dating back to 1979. He also is believed to have a criminal record outside of Washington.

“This defendant is an armed career criminal,” according to a report on Jones prepared by the county Corrections office in January.

“He has an extensive criminal history with four felony convictions and 23 misdemeanor convictions.”

The report, prepared after Jones was arrested Jan. 9 on a first-degree robbery charge, also showed three probation violations and eight failures to appear in court.

Corrections officials recommended Jones not be released on personal recognizance, and he was ordered held on $25,000 bond to face the robbery charge.

His bail was eventually reduced to $1,000 after his attorneys argued he had strong ties to the community, court records show.

Jones pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree theft on Aug. 5, the day before he was furloughed.

His other felony convictions include two burglaries and a 1981 escape from Geiger Corrections Center.

Murphy said Wednesday he had no idea of Jones’ background when he authorized the furlough. No criminal history was prepared by Lee, the judge said.

Jones’ theft conviction stems from an incident in which he wheeled a shopping cart full of groceries out of the Safeway on North Argonne Road and threatened employees who tried to stop him. Police said they found a knife on Jones when they arrested him.

Murphy said he viewed the furlough request - allowing the defendant to take care of a family emergency - as a routine matter.

“All that was before me was that he took a basket of groceries. It appeared there was a simple shoplifter before the court,” the judge said.

Lee defended her support of the furlough.

Jones made all his court dates on the recent theft charge and has no violent offenses in his background, she said.

“No, his record wasn’t the greatest,” she said. “I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen a lot better. People are released on (personal recognizance) and on bond, and furloughed every day, and go out and commit other crimes. Hindsight is 20-20. The judge signed the order.”

Lee expressed regret for the victim.

“It’s extremely unfortunate, and I feel sorry for the victim,” she said. “It’s extremely tragic for the young lady. I’m glad Mr. Jones is back in jail if this is his proclivity.”

Prosecutor Jim Sweetser did not return phone calls Wednesday, and Caplan was unavailable for comment.

Jones is now being held behind bars on charges of first-degree rape, second-degree rape and unlawful imprisonment. Bail in the rape case has been set at $150,000.

The girl told police she tried to get away from Jones and constantly told him “no” as he advanced on her about 9:30 p.m., court records state.

Three and a half hours later, she said she finally broke free and ran to a neighbor’s house.

Police investigating the incident found the girl’s purse in the garage and her black Nike tennis shoes inside the house at 1220 E. Newark, where Jones’ mother lives, an affidavit of probable cause states.

Jones told detectives he hadn’t been out of the house that night or in the garage.

The victim, who has a history of running away but was staying at home recently, hasn’t been home since the rape, the mother said.

“She’s been told not to go in anybody’s house since she was in grade school,” the woman said. “I’m just glad she made it out alive.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Adam Lynn Staff writer Staff writer Ward Sanderson contributed to this report.

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