|Jason Paul Jones|
By RIC BOHY
A former Mt. Pleasant police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced charge of statutory rape for an illegal sexual encounter with a 16-year-old boy and was placed on five years of probation.
Jason Paul Jones, 25, of Columbia, was originally charged with the more serious offense of statutory rape by an authority figure, a Class C felony carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison without the possibility of probation and a fine of up to $10,000.
The lesser charge of statutory rape is a Class E felony with potential penalties of one-six years in prison, and it permits probation, according to Maury County District Attorney General Mike Bottoms, who negotiated the plea deal.
In pleading guilty, Jones waived his right to have a grand jury hear the evidence against him, Bottoms explained.
“He wanted to put it behind him and pled to the charge,” Bottoms said, “and the victim wanted the case to be settled. The child is not doing real well with it, and the family wanted to put it behind him.”
“It’s an unusual situation, but the family did not want to go through trial with the child,” Bottoms said.
The guilty plea, accepted by Maury Circuit Judge Stella Hargrove, puts Jones on supervised probation for two years and, if he does not violate its terms, another three years without supervision, Bottoms said. Jones is also required to enter the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Sex Offender Registry and comply with its terms for 10 years, Bottoms continued.
If he violates probation, which includes a no-contact order prohibiting him from having any contact with his victim, Jones will have to serve two years in prison. In any event, he will have a record as a convicted felon, Bottoms said, and he cannot apply to have his record expunged.
“That won’t go away, so he won’t be a police officer or anything like that anymore,” Bottoms said.
Jones served with the Mt. Pleasant Police Department for about two years, including time as a reserve officer, and was assigned to the K-9 unit working on the night shift when he was fired over the rape charge.
His attorney, Kevin Latta, could not be reached for comment Monday.