9News Investigators: Trial date set for Springfield Mayor, Police Chief

The 9News Investigators: Trial date set for Springfield Mayor, Police Chief

SPRINGFIELD, LA (WAFB) - A trial date has been set for the Springfield Police Chief and Mayor. They are accused of trying to cover up a DWI ticket in 2011. Both of them were indicted a year later.

A series of legal maneuvers have kept this case from going to trial, but a judge put an end to that Monday and set a court date for February 9, 2015.

Earlier in October, Springfield Police Chief James Jones and Mayor Charles Martin were in court with their attorneys, arguing to get key material in their case thrown out - audio recordings.

The case dates back to April 2011 when a Springfield police officer stopped a woman driving the wrong direction down Hwy 22. Records show that woman, Tyra Jones blew twice over the legal limit, 0.185 and was ticketed for DWI.

Later that same night, again the next day and even the following week, that officer alleges the Martin "asked if he would have a problem if the mayor "took care of his friend" and "reduce the DWI to a reckless operation citation"."

After refusing to reduce the charge initially, fearing retaliation, the officer told investigators he finally agreed.

Attorneys for the two said their clients did nothing wrong by reducing the ticket.

A month later, the State Inspector General's Office launched an investigation on whether the mayor and chief used their positions in return for a personal favor.

Inspector General investigators asked the arresting officer to record his conversations with the police chief. The 9News Investigators obtained copies of those audio recordings where the chief told the officer he just finished speaking to state investigators. Chief Jones said he told them reducing the charge was Mayor Martin's decision.

The mayor and chief were arrested in July 2011. A year later they were indicted on four felonies: obstruction of justice, criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice, injuring public records, and criminal conspiracy to injure public records. Both pleaded not guilty.

At the hearing earlier this month, attorneys for both the chief and mayor asked Judge Bruce Bennett to prevent the state from using those audio tapes as evidence during trial.

The mayor & chief's attorneys said, per state law, in order to record a conversation, at least one party must have consented, but their question is whether an officer can legally consent or did he need a warrant to record the conversations.

On Monday, Judge Bennett denied the motion to suppress the five audio tapes and set the trial for Feb. 9.

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