An ex-Little Rock police officer who escorted what he believed to be a 1,000-pound shipment of marijuana through the city while on duty in 2012 has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison.
Mark Anthony Jones was ordered to serve 104 months in prison Wednesday on the second day of a sentencing hearing delayed from last week after prosecutors contended Jones lied on the stand.
Jones, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to one charge in exchange for six others being dropped, on Friday said he accepted responsibility for the crime. But he also said he did it because he was owed $6,000 by a man who was actually working as a confidential informant and that he had never done anything illegal before being set up by federal investigators.
Prosecutors took issue with that and asked for a continuance of the hearing till Wednesday, when they called the confidential informant, Brandon Hill, and played recordings of conversations between the two for U.S. District Judge James Moody to hear.
In the recordings, Jones is heard telling Hill how drug dealers should carry marijuana in motorcycles rather than cars because they're harder to chase, describing a method for stealing and reselling cars and inquiring about Hill's drug-dealing.
"I want to go into business with you," Jones said at one point on one of the recordings, adding later that he wants "to be rich" and would take a chance only for a "nice lick."
Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Pat Harris called it a public corruption case and asked Moody to sentence Jones at the upper end of the guideline range, which called for up to 121 months in prison.
"The tape is the real Mr. Jones," Harris said.
Moody said he didn't feel like Jones has any remorse, noting the tapes are "entirely inconsistent" with what he said when he took the stand last week.
Defense attorneys asked for the mandatory minimum five-year sentence, but Moody said he reserves downward departures from the guidelines for defendants who show they're moving away from crime.
"I'm not persuaded Mr. Jones has convinced me of that," Moody said. "He said in no uncertain terms on this tape that this is what I'm going to do and I know how to carry it out ... I know Mr. Jones has done a lot of good over the years [as a police officer], but I'm concerned he's taken a turn for the worse."
Jones, who had been free, was taken into custody after the sentence was handed down.
Jones and his half-brother, Randall Tremayn Robinson, were arrested last year.
In Robinson's trial in July, a jury deadlocked on charges tied to the drug escort in Little Rock, though he was convicted of distributing a half-pound of marijuana in 2009. Robinson was also an officer at the time.