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Jacksonville rapper Charles Jones, aka Foolio, accepts plea deal, gets probation

After several attempts to dismiss the case, Jones pleaded no contest to tampering with evidence. If he went to trial, Jones was facing up to three years.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville rapper Charles Jones, known by the moniker "Foolio," accepted a plea deal Wednesday after a months-long legal battle that began with a traffic stop. He pleaded no contrest to charges of tampering with evidence, a third degree felony, in exchange for six months probation, which he will serve at a confidential location in Georgia. 

Foolio is a known gang-affiliate and has been ordered not to contact six individuals he is associated with. The court will keep those names confidential.

The State Attorney's Office said in a statement: “Despite continuous challenges, our prosecutor was able to achieve an outcome that promotes public safety and establishes a special condition where the defendant — a documented gang member — is unable to associate with six other documented gang members. Should he violate this condition, the State is well-positioned to seek incarceration.”

Jones was pulled over by a Jacksonville Sheriff's officer for an illegal window tint on April 5. 

He was then also charged with fleeing and eluding after he allegedly did not stop right away.

His attorneys have argued that he came to a rolling stop.

In a statement to First Coast News, which can be read in full at the bottom of this article, Attorney Lewis Fusco said that "Jones slowed his vehicle to a complete stop within 450 feet of detectives activating their emergency lights." 

The civil traffic charges for the window tint have been dropped as part of his plea deal.

Jones's trial on charges of fleeing and eluding, as well as the tampering with evidence charge, was set to begin Monday. 

If found guilty, he could have faced three years in prison. 

RELATED: Foolio arrest was the result of an illegal search and detention, attorney claims

Jones's attorney: 'Another example of flawed law enforcement tactics' 

Fusco said Jones's case is "another example of flawed law enforcement tactics, racial profiling and targeted prosecution." 

While the state argued that the traffic stop was random and routine, Fusco says it that "common sense" suggests otherwise.

"There is nothing routine about undercover detectives conducting civic traffic stops with guns drawn and a prosecutor arriving on the scene of a civil traffic stop to confiscate personal property without a search warrant," he said.

Since April, Jones's attorneys have argued in court that the traffic stop was handled inappropriately and tried several times to have the case dismissed (the motions were denied).

Fusco referenced body camera footage that showed Assistant State Attorney Leah Owens arriving on the scene of the traffic stop and searching Jones's car.

RELATED: Foolio in court asking judge to dismiss case, remove 'costly' ankle monitor

"The video shows Owens advising officers that they need to seize all of the phones because they’re evidence of a crime. However, nobody had been arrested at that point," Fusco said in court in July. "Owens further goes on to instruct officers that all of the evidence in the vehicle, where she noted that nothing illegal was found, was all evidence of a crime. And there was no search warrant at that point in time."

By pleading no contest, Fusco says Jones maintains his innocence while avoiding a felony conviction and "the lifetime stigma associated with being a convicted felon."

"Thankfully, my client, Charles Jones, will not be another statistic haunted by a felony conviction for a crime he did not commit," he said. 

This is Jones's chance to continue on his upward trajectory, he says, without being "haunted" by a felony conviction "for a crime he did not commit." 

"Mr. Jones is one of the few who has an opportunity to beat the odds and become more than a product of his environment," he said.

Now, for Jones, the show goes on.

Jones performed, recorded music while on house arrest

Documents show that since his arrest, Jones was permitted travel in order to continue performing, and a list of his destinations has been submitted to the court.

In a motion to travel granted by the court on April 26, Jones was permitted to travel to California to film music videos, do press, record music and meet with a PR agent.

The motion says that "all of [Jones's] income is derived from entertainment," and he is locked into a contract with his record label that he would violate by not working.

The motion says that during the time he was on house arrest, an exception was made for Jones to travel to Los Angeles on April 27. 

Foolio had only signed his deal with Create Music Group, Inc., in March 2022, according to documents.

Create Music Group submitted a letter to the court to get this trip approved, saying the trip was "essential" for Jones to fulfill his obligations to his label.

If he followed the itinerary provided to the court, Jones was in LA April 27 to May 12. 

Officers say Jones was questioned in a murder investigation

While Jones was pulled over for excessive window tint, he was held on scene and handcuffed for 2.5 hours before being taken to the State Attorney's Office for questioning -- about a murder investigation. 

It's unknown what the murder investigation is, though Jones's attorneys referenced it as his "best friend's" murder. 

Several people close to Jones have been killed in the violent gang war plaguing the Jacksonville rap scene, including his younger brother, Aiden Dennard Gainer Jr., also called "Bibby." 

Jacksonville rapper Hakeem Armani Robinson, stage name "Ksoo," is currently charged with that murder. 

Foolio's cousin, Zion Brown, was also killed in 2017. The man arrested in his death, Deontrae Thomas, was a known affiliate of Keyanta Bullard, "Yungeen Ace," a known rival of Foolio. (Bullard and Thomas were co-defendants in a separate robbery case.)

Full statement from Jones's attorney

The full statement from Jones's attorney, Lewis Fusco, is below: 

"On April 5, 2022, Mr. Jones was stopped by undercover JSO detectives for a "routine traffic stop" based on a window tint violation. Subsequent to the traffic stop, Mr. Jones was arrested for Fleeing and Eluding law enforcement. Despite the State's position that the traffic stop was routine and random, common sense and the evidence suggest otherwise. 

There is nothing routine about undercover detectives conducting civil traffic stops with guns drawn and a prosecutor arriving on the scene of a civil traffic stop to confiscate personal property without a search warrant. Unfortunately, this appears to be another example of flawed law enforcement tactics, racial profiling, and targeted prosecution.

 At no point did Mr. Jones flee from law enforcement. As shown on video, he slowed his vehicle to a complete stop within 450 feet of detectives activating their emergency lights. The practice of racial profiling has no place in law enforcement or our justice system. It undermines the public's trust in law enforcement which is vital for an effective community policing organization. 

Thankfully, my client, Charles Jones, will NOT be another statistic haunted by a felony conviction for a crime he did not commit. Today, we resolved Mr. Jones's case with a best interest plea of no contest while maintaining his innocence, avoiding a felony conviction, and the lifetime stigma associated with being a convicted felon. 

Mr. Jones is one of the few who has an opportunity to beat the odds and become more than a product of his environment. I am thankful he has the opportunity to recover from this injustice and continue his successful music career for years to come."

   

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