Christopher Scott Jones, 48, 337 Hemlock St., Mount Carmel, was arrested Feb. 10 on a Hawkins County grand jury sealed indictment warrant on one count of theft over $250,000. He had been in jail 12 days before being bonded out late Friday morning.
The charge stems from allegations that Jones embezzled more than $394,000 from his elderly grandmother in West Virginia in the year before she passed away in 2016. Attorney General Dan Armstrong said the case can be prosecuted in Hawkins County because Jones deposited the funds in a Hawkins County bank.
Jones has contended that his grandmother gave him the money, although allegations emerged from his civil case in West Virginia that the woman suffered from dementia and was not competent to sign away her power of attorney or endorse checks at the time the funds were supposedly gifted to Jones.
In 2017, a civil court in West Virginia ordered Jones to pay his mother and other family members $571,000 after he failed to show up for the trial there. Hawkins County Chancellor Doug Jenkins ruled last year that the West Virginia judgement was valid in Tennessee.
There are links in the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net with more details about the allegations against Jones.
On Friday, Jones and his attorney, Rick Spivey, appeared before Dugger on a motion for bond reduction.
Spivey asked for Jones’ bond to be set at $25,000, noting that his client is a lifelong resident of Mount Carmel and Kingsport, served as a police officer and fire chief in Mount Carmel for many years, and has no previous criminal history.
“This bond is extremely exorbitant considering murder suspects are given a much lower bond,” Spivey stated in his motion. “This bond was politically motivated.”
Spivey also pointed out in court that Jones is still the mayor of Mount Carmel.
“He may be the mayor of whatever,” Dugger replied. “This is still an A felony.”
Dugger reduced the bond to $100,000, and Jones waved his arraignment, which was originally set for April 29. A trial date was set for May 18, and Spivey told the judge the trial would likely take three days.
Jones hadn’t attended the previous two Mount Carmel Board of Mayor and Alderman meetings, reportedly due to a serious illness involving blood clots in a leg.
As he was asking for a reduced bond, Spivey told the judge that Jones was scheduled for life-threatening surgery this month.
Jones’ father was in the courtroom Friday, and Spivey said if Jones were released from jail, he would be staying with his father in Washington County.
Jones hasn’t been convicted of any crimes, nor has he been accused of any malfeasance within Mount Carmel city government. As a result, the BMA has no power to remove him from office.
The mayor’s seat is up for re-election in November, and Jones stated publicly last year that he wasn’t running for re-election.
However, Jones is in the process of being evicted from his residence in Mount Carmel.
City Manager Mike Housewright told the Times News that Jones is currently a resident of Mount Carmel.
However, if Jones is convicted, or if his residence status changes, the BMA would have grounds to remove him from office.
Meanwhile, Jones appeared in Mount Carmel City Hall briefly Friday afternoon shortly after being released form jail to perform some mayoral duties, including signing some grant application forms.
Theft over $250,000 is a Class A felony punishable by 15-25 years.