Mayor, police chief want audio tapes thrown out
LIVINGSTON - The longtime mayor and police chief of Springfield went to court Thursday facing felony charges for allegedly covering up a DWI arrest.
The pair is accused of reducing charges of an April 2011 DWI to reckless operation. Both were arrested three years ago and face charges of obstruction, injuring public records, malfeasance and criminal conspiracy.
Defense attorneys for the town leaders spent the day trying to get audio recordings thrown out of court. In two separate recordings with another police officer, Chief Jones admitted to reducing the charge and potentially making a mistake.
"I mean we covered it. Most people don't do it. They don't practice that cause they don't want to fool with a DWI," he said. "So they don't fool with it, but he's got the right to if he wants to, and he doesn't have to answer for nobody for that."
Defense attorney Timothy Fondren, who represents Jones, and Lance Unglesby, who represents Martin, both feel the judge should throw out three different recordings. Fondren and Unglesby say the audio tapes were captured without the proper legal procedures done.
"With or without them it's obvious that these individuals did not commit a crime," said Unglesby. "They never asked that documents be destroyed. They never asked that the investigation be impeded."
"In this case it's clear law enforcement did not have a warrant prior to conducting these undercover operations," said Fondren. "We say they should have had a warrant before they did it."
In another recorded conversation, Inspector General's Office investigators say Jones admitted to wrong-doing after the office made contact with him.
"We were under the impression that it was legal to do so. If we made a boo-boo, we'll do what we gotta do. But I said apparently you're here so it is a boo-boo, and I can assure you that it won't happen again," said Jones in the recording.
Assistant Attorney General David Caldwell says the argument from the defense doesn't apply, so the audio tapes should stay put.
"I mean, I can tell you they're part of the case, so we'll continue on and see what happens," He said.
The central part of the legal argument is if a police officer can record a conversation without the other person's consent. Judge Bruce Bennett will rule on that issue on October 27 and then set a trial date.
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