For those watching the events unfold (including us) it seemed that there was a connection between the arrests made in January of '07 and the Hood Gentlemenz video. The stories published on the arrests always mentioned the video, leaving the casual observer to believe there was some connection. Many believed that some of those in the video were arrested the same night that Jones was arrested.* Some believed that video participants were arrested for something done, or seen, in the video.
That was not the case.
The arrests were covered by the area media and that coverage seemed heightened because of the rap video/McGrath angle. It did make for an interesting hook and more people probably followed the story because of McGrath's interest in the matter. An interest that was not unwarranted.
Here's The Record's coverage of the event:
As the police officers and officers from the state Division of Parole were sitting in the surveillance vehicle on Douw Street at about 6:45 p.m. a suspicious car with four teenagers circled the block and parked three feet in front of them. One of the passengers got out of the car and Officer Sean Kittle saw him tuck a large semi-automatic handgun into his belt. He alerted his partners and the team took down the pedestrian and "tactically removed" the occupants of the car. Detectives determined the four youths had planned to raid a residence on Douw Street and rob the person living there. Troy police confiscated a .38 caliber semi-automatic handgun and a BB pistol.
The facts surrounding the event are not complicated and Franco sets them forth in a clear, concise manner. In fact, it's a summary of what the District Attorneys Office needs to prove to establish probable cause.
Ultimately, the case against Jerry Javon Jones was dismissed, one of the four men in the car, were dismissed by Judge Jacon. Naturally, there was outrage, particularly among those who'd rather pay lip-service to the United States Constitution than devote time to understanding that document.
During a pretrial hearing last week, one of the officers involved -- the only officer to testify at the hearing -- admitted that the officers did not see a gun. Officer William Bowles testified that the officers in the van became concerned that their cover was blown and that they might be ambushed. He said one of the officers mentioned something about a gun after the passenger, who was not Jones, made a suspicious move near his waistband as he walked around the van and back to the car. It later turned out the man had a pellet pistol.
Police said they believed the group was about to pull off a home invasion in the crime-plagued neighborhood.- Times Union, 11/27/07
From a subsequent story:
Bowles was the only one of the three officers called by Assistant District Attorney William Roberts to testify at the pretrial hearing.
But, according to statements on file at the court clerk's office, Officer Sean Kittle, one of the others on the stakeout, said he saw a gun in the hand of Jose George as he got out of the car, walked around, then got back in.
"The person had a large-caliber, silver automatic pistol in his right hand and he shoved it into his waistband and pulled down the coat over the gun," Kittle wrote in his statement following the arrest.
Statements on file from George also indicate he had a gun, which turned out to be a pellet pistol, officers said. Even though it was a pellet gun, it would have given police probable cause to make an arrest, officials said.
The ruling was not without it's critics:
Second District Councilman Mark McGrath said Jacon should have asked the prosecution for more eyewitness testimony from police concerning what they allegedly saw and found when they stopped a car containing Jones and several other men. Police allege they found a pellet pistol and a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun in the vehicle, which led to the arrest.
"The judge could have asked for other witnesses to testify, including other officers who were on the scene," McGrath said in prepared statements. "Instead, he took the first opportunity he had to dismiss the charges and turn the person loose on the streets."
That an elected official would lash out at a Judge in an ongoing case is troubling. To do so while simultaneously advertising your ignorance on the subject is startling. McGrath, whom we honestly like, seems to believe that a county court judge is somehow an arm of law enforsement. It is not a judge's role to ensure that the DA's office has established probable cause for a stop. Nonetheless:
Jones' attorney Terence Kindlon said Jacon, before dismissing the charges, did ask Assistant District Attorney William Roberts a couple of times whether he had any more evidence to present. It is unclear why prosecutors did not put the other officers on the stand.**
In fairness to McGrath, he did back off on his criticism of Jacon. In a recent Record article (unfortunately we do not have a link) McGrath re-focused and simply asked, what happened? A legitimate line of inquiry.
Jacon has come under fire for a number of rulings and comments made during court proceedings. Some of the fire is warranted and some is not. Here, the latter is true. It's hard to see on what grounds Jacon should be criticized.
At the very least, we'd hope this episode sparks some real debate about what can and should be done within poverty-stricken areas and high-crime neighborhoods.
* A person in the background of the video may have been in the car with Jones but this remains unclear. No producer of the video or Hoodz Gentlemen were arrested.
** If you're not inclined to believe Kindlon (those who know him say his integrity is beyond dispute) this exchange can be verified in the record of the proceeding.