ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) – A reputed drug dealer accused of raping a female police informant sent into his house alone in an unsupervised sting has skipped bail and was a no-show Monday at what was supposed to be the start of his trial.
Antonio D. Jones’ alleged assault, in which he was caught on video forcing the woman to perform oral sex on him twice, was reported in an Associated Press investigation last month that revealed the dangers such informants can face , when they try to “relieve” criminal charges. often loosely regulated, secretive arrangements.
“I think I have to address the elephant that’s not in the room,” Assistant District Attorney Brian Cespiva said during a brief court hearing, adding that federal marshals were actively searching for Jones and “he will be here for last.”
Jones, a 48-year-old career criminal known as “Mississippi,” had attended earlier hearings in the case but was discovered last week to have jumped his $70,000 bail and fled the central Louisiana area. Prosecutors told the AP that Jones’ bail amount was “predetermined” and not unreasonably low despite the violent nature of the charges and his extensive criminal history.
But Jones’ disappearance compounded the scandal over law enforcement’s handling of the case and their treatment of the informant, who was sent into the suspect’s dilapidated house in January 2021 to buy meth with hidden video recording equipment that could not be monitored by law enforcement in real time.
“We’ve always done it this way,” Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Parker, the ranking officer in the operation, told the AP. “She was an addict and we just used her as an informant, like we’ve done a million times before.”
Despite the woman’s cooperation and the alleged attack, she was still charged with possession of drug paraphernalia stemming from an arrest that happened about a month before the stabbing.
The informant, who declined interview requests and is not being named because the AP does not typically identify sexual assault victims, is expected to testify against Jones if he is ever found.
The case revolves largely around the footage of the attack, which Jones’ own defense attorney argued was “extremely graphic” and too damaging to show to jurors, admitting it depicts “forced oral sex.”
According to interviews and confidential law enforcement records obtained by the AP, the dealer threatened to put the crying woman “in the hospital” and even paused at one point during the attack to conduct a separate drug deal.
In court papers that confused prosecutors, defense attorney Phillip M. Robinson even offered to stipulate that “Mr. Jones had a specific intent to rape” the woman, arguing that it would be “difficult for a jury to maintain neutrality and not- bias” after seeing the “violent sexual intercourse.”
Prosecutor Cespiva told the AP that Jones’ charges were recently reduced from second-degree forcible rape to third-degree rape, or simple rape, to make a conviction more likely. He said prosecutors intend to seek consecutive 25-year terms on each charge.
“We want to prosecute this guy” for the informant, said Rapides Parish District Attorney Phillip Terrell. “She wants this to be behind her.”
Contact AP’s global investigative team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter at @JimMustian.