A local lawyer who had been accused of smuggling contraband to a Richmond County jail inmate and trying to influence a witness in an armed robbery case has been barred from practicing law in two states while awaiting disciplinary actions.
Sidney “Chuck” Jones, 59, of Graniteville, was arrested Sept. 28 after Richmond County sheriff’s investigators observed him passing bags containing tobacco and marijuana to an inmate, according to court documents.
Jones was indicted in November on three felonies – influencing a witness, crossing guard lines with drugs and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute – but later pleaded guilty to 11 misdemeanors and was sentenced to probation by Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet.
Jones avoided jail time, but his arrest and guilty plea have, in effect, shut down his ability to practice law in both South Carolina and Georgia.
Two days after his arrest, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an order suspending his license to practice law until further notice. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel could pursue a revocation of his license, but no action had been taken as of Wednesday, South Carolina officials said.
In Georgia, part of Jones’ sentencing requires that he refrain from practicing law for the period of his probation – 11 years. The State Bar of Georgia has requested all documents pertaining to Jones’ case for a “pending disciplinary matter,” according to a letter sent to District Attorney Ashley Wright.
No disciplinary proceeding had been filed with the Georgia Supreme Court as of Wednesday, according to Jenny Mittelman, the deputy general counsel for the State Bar.
According to court documents, Jones came to the attention of Richmond County sheriff’s investigators after jail employees caught an inmate, Jamie Trey Robinson, with contraband tobacco.
Robinson, 36, told investigators that he had obtained the tobacco from Jones, who had been smuggling bags of the substance into the jail for weeks. Robinson, who is awaiting trial on armed robbery and hijacking charges, told police a few days after his arrest in April that he knew who was behind another series of armed robberies at restaurants.
According to court documents, Robinson named Tyler Jones, of Warrenville, as the gunman who had been walking into Waffle Houses, firing a shot into the ceiling and robbing the businesses. Tyler Jones was arrested and charged in several robberies by Aiken County authorities.
About two weeks later, Robinson said that Sidney Jones, who practices law at Jones and Lynn Law Offices in Aiken, appeared at the Richmond County jail.
Robinson said Jones offered to represent him for free and provide him with weekly drops of tobacco, in exchange for his changing his story about his son, Tyler Jones.
Authorities said Jones began coaching Robinson and eventually had him sign three affidavits intended to help his son beat charges in Aiken County. Robinson told investigators all the affidavits were false.
Investigators allowed Robinson to set up another meeting with Jones that they could observe. After they saw Jones pass Robinson several bags in an interview room at the jail, a search of the bags also found about 3 grams of marijuana, court documents said.
Jones denied all charges, but eventually pleaded guilty to 10 counts of crossing guard lines with contraband and one count of disorderly conduct for preparing an affidavit for Robinson to sign.
Wright said she agreed to the negotiated plea in December because it would have been difficult to prove Jones knowingly smuggled marijuana into the jail because he had obtained the packages from a third party.
Moreover, the charge of influencing a witness was reduced in part because the witness did not testify and the affidavits were never presented in court.
She said the plea prevents Jones from practicing in Georgia and could ultimately result in his disbarment.
“We effectively inoculated ourselves against him and his practices, which is what we were after,” she said.
In South Carolina, Tyler Jones was convicted this week of armed robbery, burglary and possession of a weapon in an April 17 home invasion in North Augusta, Assistant Solicitor David Miller said.
He was sentenced Thursday by Circuit Judge Jack Early to 22 years in prison, Miller said.
Miller said Jones also awaits trial in five other armed robberies, but prosecutors chose to move ahead with that case separately because it did not involve testimony from Robinson.