JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville rapper known as Foolio remains on house arrest following an April traffic stop for suspected tint violation and felony fleeing, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. But attorneys for the performer, whose given name is Charles Jones, were in court Wednesday challenging how that traffic stop was handled.
Foolio has been a key figure in a bloody rivalry between two Jacksonville gangs. He's affiliated with the gang known as KTA, which is bitter foes with ATK, the express affiliate of another Jacksonville rapper, Yungeen Ace.
In Duval County court Wednesday, Foolio's lawyer disputed police accounts that the rapper attempted to elude police, insisting he just "rolled 300 feet to a stop."
Attorney Lewis Fusco also said police body cam footage shows Assistant State Attorney Leah Owens arriving on the scene of the traffic stop, "searching" Foolio's car, and advising officers to make an arrest.
Fusco said the rapper was then taken to the State Attorney's Office and questioned about what he referred to as Foolio's "best friend's murder."
"Jones never failed to stop in the first place," Fusco insisted. "The fact that Owens was on the scene of a civil traffic stop which they claim was a 'felony takedown' for two-and-a-half hours, and investigated this for four hours before an arrest took place, clearly shows that she was not prosecuting at that point in time."
Fusco told the judge he plans to call ASA Owens to the stand as a witness. He attempted to depose Owens last week without success, after she was issued a subpoena.
"There were three witnesses scheduled that day," Fusco told Circuit Judge Mark Borello. "Owens was present for the first two, and then when her deposition came around, she walked out of the room saying she would not be deposed. My client certainly is entitled to some of the information she has."
Borello gave Fusco two weeks to come up with case law supporting his position that he may depose Owens. He plans to rule on the matter Aug. 1.
At the hearing, Fusco said body cam footage shows officers telling Foolio the incident was just a routine traffic stop, that he would be able to go home.
"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. "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."
Fusco said Owens instructed officers on what to seize and conferred with officers for hours, discussing their "investigation."
Foolio's blue Dodge Durango was pulled over around 4:30 p.m. April 4, his attorney said, but wasn't arrested until 8 p.m.
The State Attorney's Office said it's common for prosecutors to respond to the scene of a crime, like a homicide, and investigate. “Depending on the nature of the offense or individuals involved. It is not uncommon for attorneys in our office to go to the scene of a crime. The State has already filed motions to quash the defense’s subpoena and remove the attorney as a witness.”
"Like a homicide scene, every single homicide case I have, I was present at the scene," Owens said, adding, "I did not search anything. I did not put gloves on, did not touch any item in that vehicle. I just looked inside the vehicle."
Fusco argued that while it might be standard for prosecutors to respond to crime scenes, at the time Owens arrived, it wasn't a crime scene.
"The officers clearly stated and told Mr. Jones for two-and-a-half hours that 'it was a routine traffic stop. We’re going to get you a ride home,' and then tell him they’re taking him to the State Attorney’s Office to question him about one of his best friend’s murders, and he’s still not under arrest," Fusco said.
"Not only was she instructing these officers within 25-minutes of the traffic stop," Fusco continued. "She can be seen on video searching the passenger side of the vehicle, the back passenger side of the vehicle, going around to the driver’s side of the vehicle looking inside, then the back passenger driver’s side of the vehicle, as well as pointing to cell phones, talking to officers about whose cell phone is whose."
Despite one of the three occupants being arrested, Fusco said, all of the occupants cell phones were seized at Owen's instruction.
"Clearly, she’s relevant to the is case," Fusco said.
"It’s my belief from watching the video that, had Ms. Owens not arrived on scene, I don’t know if these officers would have made an arrest," Fusco said. "They did not place him under arrest until that decision seemed to be made by Ms. Owens."