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Foolio traffic stop was 'tool' for police to confiscate cell phones, officer testifies

JSO detective says Jacksonville rapper Foolio's April traffic stop was conducted to gain access to his cell phone.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer testifying in the criminal case against Jacksonville rapper Foolio said the originating traffic stop last April wasn’t about illegal tint, but a targeted effort to confiscate his cell phone.

The revelation emerged at a Friday hearing in which attorneys for Charles Jones, aka Foolio, asked a judge to suppress all evidence in the criminal case against him.

Jones is charged with felony fleeing and eluding during an April 5 traffic stop, which began as a stop for excessive window tint. He has pleaded not guilty.

In court, Jones’ attorney asserted – and officers acknowledged – that Jones drove under the posted speed limit for a distance of less than 400 feet and a period of 17 seconds before stopping. Five armed detectives surrounded his Dodge Durango and demanded he exit the vehicle. Jones complied, and nothing illegal was found in the vehicle. But he was held on scene, handcuffed, for 2½ hours before being taken to the State Attorney’s Office for questioning in separate a murder investigation.

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

Five hours after being stopped, Jones was told he was being arrested for felony fleeing and eluding and taken to jail. He bonded out soon after.

Foolio is a pioneer in the “murder rap” genre, in which presumed gang members celebrate and mock the violent death of rivals. Foolio is affiliated with the gang KTA, which has been engaged in a years-long bloodbath with the gang ATK, affiliated with rival Jacksonville rapper Yungeen Ace.

It’s not clear if a criminal probe of that gang rivalry is the “investigation” referenced by JSO Detective Christopher Smith at Friday’s hearing. But he conceded the April stop wasn’t motivated just by illegal tint: 

Jones’ attorney Lewis Fusco: How were the cell phones relevant to this offense of fleeing an eluding?

JSO Det. Christopher Smith: They are not. They are part of a larger investigation.

Fusco: And [at the stop] you do not have a search warrant?

Det. Smith: No.

Fusco: Was this traffic stop used as a tool to confiscate those cell phones?

Det. Smith: [Long pause] I believe that’s a fair question. I would say yes.

Detective Beau Daigle, who initiated the stop and whose car Det. Smith was riding in, denied knowing who was in the vehicle prior to the stop.

“Did anyone in the vehicle discuss that it was Charles Jones driving?” Fusco asked. “No,” Daigle said.

Assistant State Attorney Leah Owens pushed back, arguing the traffic stop by JSO’s gang unit was not out of the ordinary.

“Was it very common for the Gang Unit to make traffic stops?” she asked Daigle. “Yes,” he answered.

“Is this something that happens at least once a week?” she asked. “Yes,” he answered. 

“Same type of traffic stop?” Owens asked. “Yes,” he answered.

After a nearly 3 ½ hearing, Circuit Judge Mark Borello said he will set another date for arguments on the issue.

First Coast News reached out to both the State Attorney’s Office and Jones’ lawyer for comment about Friday’s hearing. Both declined, citing the ongoing legal proceeding.

The case is set for trial Aug. 29.

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