August 29, 1996 in Nation/World

Inmate Accused Of Rape Twice Before Furloughed Prisoner’s Criminal Background Was Not Relayed To Judge Who Authorized His Release

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A man accused of raping a 14-year-old Spokane girl while furloughed from the county jail had been arrested twice before on suspicion of rape.

But the county’s chief criminal prosecutor never relayed that information - or any of James Edward Jones’ extensive criminal background - to the judge who authorized Jones’ Aug. 6 release.

Deputy Prosecutor Kathryn Lee, who didn’t return calls Wednesday, said two weeks ago she approved Jones’ eight-day furlough because he had “no violence in his background.”

Jones has five felony convictions and 23 misdemeanor convictions and is considered a “career criminal” by the county Corrections Department, according to court documents. His record includes two burglaries and an escape from Geiger Corrections Center.

Prosecuting Attorney Jim Sweetser later backed Lee’s decision to support the furlough requested by Jones’ lawyer.

“Nobody could have anticipated that he would go out and rape somebody while he was out for a week,” Sweetser told The Spokesman-Review on Aug. 15.

But police reports - readily available to prosecutors - show officers arrested Jones in 1986 and 1992 after two different Spokane women said he had raped them.

On Wednesday, Sweetser again defended Lee. He said her decision not to tell the judge about Jones’ previous rape arrests was justified because arrest histories don’t carry much weight in court.

“Charges that ultimately don’t result in convictions, judges don’t usually consider that,” Sweetser said.

But Superior Court Judge James Murphy, who granted Jones’ furlough, disagreed.

Murphy said attorneys routinely provide him with arrest histories at bail and furlough hearings, especially after a conviction or guilty plea. Jones was furloughed to attend to a family emergency while awaiting sentencing for first-degree theft.

Information about prior convictions carries more weight, but arrest histories can influence his decisions, Murphy said.

“My first concern in something like this is always community safety,” the judge said. “It can make a difference, especially if there’s a pattern.”

Murphy said he relies almost exclusively on prosecutors to provide him with such information.

Records of Jones’ previous rape arrests indicate he lured the women to two Spokane homes and attacked them after trying to get them to consent to sex.

One woman told police Jones raped her at knifepoint in a trailer on East Pacific after offering to help her replace three flat tires on her car, according to the 1986 report.

In 1992, another woman claimed Jones attacked her in his mother’s South Hill home after picking her up downtown. The woman told police Jones slammed her head into the floor until she lost consciousness. When she woke up, Jones was naked and on top of her, according to the police report.

In each case, Jones, 44, was released from jail after prosecutors opted not to file criminal charges. The reasons behind the decisions not to prosecute weren’t immediately known.

Jones is now accused of raping the 14-year-old girl two days after being furloughed.

On Wednesday, he pleaded not guilty to first-degree rape and unlawful imprisonment.

The girl told police Jones slapped, choked and raped her twice in a garage behind a house at 1220 E. Newark, the same location of the attack reported in 1992.

News reports of the alleged rape prompted Sweetser to change his office’s policy on furloughs. Prosecutors now oppose all furlough requests made on behalf of convicted felons.

Sweetser said he is treating the current rape case as “a very high priority” and has ordered Deputy Prosecutor Dawn Cortez to dig into Jones’ background to show a pattern of similar behavior at trial, and possibly at sentencing.

“We’re trying to make this case we’ve got now as strong as possible,” he said.

Jones, who is scheduled to stand trial Sept. 30, defended prosecutors in an Aug. 15 letter to The Spokesman-Review.

“The state/county employees mentioned (in the newspaper) … have nothing at all to do with my being arrested or previously convicted. Yet, they are victimized by scandal,” Jones wrote. “Me? Innocent until proven guilty? I can’t tell!”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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