Late Wednesday afternoon, a Wise County jury in the 271st District Court of Judge John Fostel in Decatur sentenced Ricky Dale Jones Jr., 34, of Bridgeport to 30 years in prison for possessing methamphetamine.
In January, while serving an outstanding warrant, a Bridgeport police officer found approximately 5 grams of meth in Jones’ pocket. Jones already had two prior felony convictions, one for aggravated assault and another for felony possession of a firearm.
Due to the three strikes law, his potential sentence ranged from 25 years to life for felony drug possession.
Despite tearful testimony delivered by the defendant’s wife and employer during the punishment phase of the trial, the jury still delivered a sentence longer than the minimum.
“I believe the jury sent a strong message that if you are a habitual offender in Wise County you will face justice,” said District Attorney Greg Lowery. “You will not be given a slap on the hand or a pat on the back and told to be nice and play by the rules in the future. The jury in essence said there are consequences to your actions and we, the citizens of Wise County, will hold your actions accountable.”
The witnesses who spoke in Jones’ defense said he made mistakes because he was addicted to methamphetamine, not because he was a bad person.
“He’s a good-hearted person that helps anyone in need,” said friend Nicki Stevens. “He’s been going to church ever since he got out of jail. He’s been going to a men’s church group.
“I believe he needs therapy and drug rehabilitation. I don’t think he can get that in jail.”
Her mother, who employs Jones, said he made poor choices because he didn’t know another way.
“I think Ricky wants to change,” said Judy Stevens, of Bridgeport. “I think Ricky wants to be a good citizen, and he’s trying hard to do it. I don’t think he had people in his life to teach him right from wrong. He was raised by parents and step-parents that are drug addicts and thieves. He didn’t know life was any other way. But now that he’s going to church and meeting positive people, he now knows there is a better way to live.
“He has a disease, an addiction,” she said. “It’s just like cigarettes or alcohol or obesity. Some people can’t get over it without help.”
His wife, Sophia Jones, also said all his woes stemmed from his addiction to methamphetamine, and that he needs rehabilitation.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” she said. “Give him the proper resources and positive people to be around, and he can change.”
Jones was emotional and teared up several times as he listened to testimony from his wife and his friends.
“There are three strikes laws for a reason,” Assistant District Attorney Tim Cole told the jury during closing arguments. “It’s because people commit crimes over and over.”
“He only had 5.26 grams,” said defense attorney Paul Belew. “That’s not a large quantity of drugs. He’s only destroying himself. I recommend the low end of the spectrum when you decide the sentence.”
“The defense says he’s only hurting himself – that’s not true,” countered Cole. “Look at how his friends and family are hurting. There are collateral consequences.
“He has assault and weapons convictions, and those are things that can and will hurt people.”
Jones chose not to testify at any phase in the trial.
The only reason Jones was stopped in January is because police were serving a warrant against him for attempting to evade arrest last August. When a state trooper attempted to pull over the defendant for a possible faulty lamp on his motorcycle’s license plate and speeding, Jones took off and led state troopers on a high speed chase on U.S. 81/287 between Rhome and Decatur.
Cole showed the jury a dash-cam video of the pursuit. During the nighttime, northbound pursuit, the motorcyclist hit speeds of 120 miles per hour.
“I was following, and the other trooper got in front of him so we could box him in before we entered Decatur,” said Department of Public Safety trooper Fred Thornton.
At this point Jones rams his motorcycle into the back of the patrol car in front of him, flips into the air, tumbles off the trunk and hits the ground. Jones, who was wearing a helmet, jumps right up and starts running across the median but is soon apprehended by Thornton.
Jones still received a helicopter transport from the scene to a Fort Worth hospital. The warrant for evading arrest was issued later.
Jones must serve a quarter of his sentence before being eligible for parole.