With the off-field behavior of professional athletes an increasing focus of concern, getting busted trying to bring two loaded guns through security at Logan Airport certainly was not exactly a good look for a guy about to start his second season with the New England Patriots. And to any armchair jurist it seemed an open-and-shut criminal case.
Jack Jones, a second-year cornerback with the team, was arrested in June at Logan when screeners found two loaded Glock 9mm handguns in his carry-on bags, along with several magazines of ammunition. A slew of criminal charges were filed, but this week the Suffolk district attorney’s office dropped all of them in exchange for Jones being put on pre-trial probation and agreeing to 48 hours of community service.
As far as sports writers were concerned, it was the ultimate blown call.
“It is outrageous,” said the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, saying the “laughable Suffolk county DA” applied an “embarrassing and dangerous double standard.”
Globe sports columnist Christopher Gasper said Suffolk DA Kevin Hayden seemed to “backpedal faster than Jones does,” adding that the pre-trial probation and community service outcome “sounds like he brought the wrong size shampoo through TSA.”
“Is anyone else scratching their head” over the decision to drop charges, asked Channel 5 sports guy Mike Lynch.
While the journalists may have been doing their job, to borrow a phrase, by asking whether Jones got special treatment, the DA’s office and some legal experts insist prosecutors were doing theirs in deciding not to pursue gun possession charges against Jones.
“We were consistent in applying review in this case similarly to what we do in other cases,” said Hayden spokesman Jim Borghesani.
In its court filing declaring that it won’t proceed with the charges, the DA’s office wrote that it “it has thoroughly reviewed all the evidence in this case and determined that it cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Jones had knowledge that he possessed the firearms in his bag at the time of the incident.”
Gasper found prosecutors’ claim wanting. His translation of the DA’s legalese: “You’re responsible for what’s in your luggage – unless you’re an NFL player.”
Greg Henning, the former chief of the gun prosecution task force in the Suffolk DA’s office, said it’s easy to see a double standard in the case, but there may be less to that than meets the eye.
“If you’re using the common sense lens, it seems shocking that you wouldn’t be held criminally responsible for something in your possession,” Henning said. “But criminal law requires more than a common sense thought that a person must have known they possessed something.” Henning said there’s a “knowledge component” to any possessory offense that requires proving that an individual knew what was in the bag. He said arguing that others had access to your luggage while it was being packed, for example, could be enough to be cleared of a possession charge.
Phil Tracy, a Boston defense attorney and former Suffolk County prosecutor, said the DA’s decision seemed within the scope of the legitimate discretion the office applies, even if some might say it was a close call.
“It’s a judgment call by the DA, and they make them all the time,” he said.
He said Jones having the guns in his luggage is “as close to possession as you can get” while still having legal wiggle room. “There is a potential reasonable doubt that he knew the guns were in there,” said Tracy.
Making the DA’s decision to drop the case seem more tangled is the fact that prosecutors say they weren’t sure they could prove Jones knew he had the guns at the airport – while also saying the guns were, in fact, his. Although Jones was not licensed to carry a handgun in Massachusetts, the DA’s office says he legally purchased the two guns in Arizona and “has taken steps to become a lawful gun owner in Massachusetts” within a 60-day grace period the law provides for.
Borghesani said Jones began that process after his arrest.
If the “Patriot Way” is finding a way to win even when things look bad, Jones seems to have scored even before the team’s season kicks off this Sunday.
Track maintenance breakdown: Two new reports trace the eruption of slow zones on the MBTA subway system to a breakdown in track repair efforts. The problem surfaced in March when T officials learned none of the track defects identified by rail scans during the second half of 2022 had been reviewed and addressed.
– The system for maintaining track failed top to bottom, according to the reports, which blamed inadequate staffing, poor training, and the absence of any standard operating procedures for handling track defects.
– MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng said no employees will be disciplined and pledged to address the track maintenance problems by changing the culture of the agency.
– Slow zones are authorized when track defects make it dangerous to operate trains at higher speeds. Ever since March, when the problem was uncovered, the number of slow zones on the system has remained stubbornly high. Eng has no timetable for eliminating them, but says he is making a start with a 16-day shutdown of the Red Line between JFK/UMass and Ashmont and the Mattapan Line to replace all the track. Read more.
Override civics veto: Matt Wilson of the Civic Learning Coalition and Westborough High teacher Casey Cullen urge the Legislature to override Gov. Maura Healey’s veto of money for civics education. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Local town officials say they’ve been floored by the state directing migrants to motels in their communities, some of which have no local nonprofit set up to assist them. (Boston Globe) House members teed off on the Healey administration for what they said was a lack of communication on the migrant crisis. (Boston Herald)
Advocates are pushing a bill that would ban the use of aversive therapy – like the use of electrical shocks – after the state’s highest court ruled that a Canton facility is allowed to use electrical devices on clients known to self-harm.
Columnist Jack Spillane chronicles the latest maneuvers in the saga of UMass Dartmouth yanking its arts college out of the downtown New Bedford building where it helped spur the city’s arts and culture sector, and wonders whether defeatism, which once ruled in the region, is making a comeback. (New Bedford Light)
Former presidential trade advisor Peter Navarro became the second Trump administration official, after Steve Bannon, to be convicted of criminal contempt charges for ignoring a subpoena to appear before the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. (New York Times)
In a MetroWest Daily News column, US Rep. Jim McGovern makes the case for a constitutional amendment that would ban corporate political spending, limit how much political donors can contribute or spend, and force Congress to enact public campaign financing reform or lose pay.
Boston City Councilor Kendra Lara, facing a reckoning with voters next week over crashing a car into a Jamaica Plain house while driving without a driver’s license, released a report she commissioned showing she was going only 27 miles per hour, 2 miles per hour over the speed limit, and not more than 50 miles per hour, as a police report alleges. (Boston Globe)
Worcester’s preliminary election is a wrap, with just 8.7 percent turnout. (Worcester Telegram)
Sixty-one percent of Boston school buses arrived on time for the first day of school, up from 50 percent last year but well below the 95 percent target level. (GBH)
Emotions ran high in a public meeting focused on the surprise $14.4 million deficit in Brockton schools. Brockton Schools CFO Aldo Petronio was placed on administrative leave last Friday, after the error came to light. (The Enterprise)
The Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester welcomes the gift of 350 works of Cape Ann American art. (Gloucester Times)
Vineyard Wind has shipped the first of its massive turbines to their new location south of Martha’s Vineyard. (Cape Cod Times)
Bail is set at $200,000 for a retired Florida doctor who was arraigned on gun and drug charges after a police raid on a Nantucket yacht. (Nantucket Current)
The Nieman Foundation asks: Is $500 million from the Press Forward coalition enough to cure what ails the local news ecosystem? (Nieman Journalism Lab)