A woman who didn’t want to lie under oath upended the prosecution’s case against a Michigan man who had been accused of attempted first-degree murder.
Shelbie Mitchell had told investigators since Sept. 22, 2018, that she did not have a gun or make any threats with one while at Mingles Lounge in Gillette on that day.
That came despite comments from three cell tower workers who all told police in the hours after a shooting at the bar that a woman had pointed a gun at them during a physical fight in the volleyball area outside the bar.
The shooting, which happened about 2:30 a.m. outside the front door after the bar had closed, wounded George Mitchell, her father, in the upper thigh.
But before she was scheduled to testify in the case against D’Marco Jones, she admitted to court officials Friday morning that she hadn’t told the truth in the case.
Shelbie Mitchell’s statement caused prosecutors over the weekend to reduce the charge against Jones to possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Attempted first-degree murder has a penalty of life imprisonment.
Jones pleaded no contest Monday to the reduced charge and as part of a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a four- to five-year prison sentence, suspended in favor of three years of supervised probation.
With his no contest plea, Jones admitted or denied nothing, but it has the same consequences as guilty plea.
Campbell County Attorney Ron Wirthwein said that in light of the revelations from Shelbie Mitchell, the reduced charged was in the best interest of justice.
“The deal we have struck is justice for both sides,” he said.
Mitch Damsky, Jones’ attorney, agreed.
“Justice was served in the case,” he said as he left court Monday, adding that it showed that the integrity of Wirthwein and prosecutor Nathan Henkes “is beyond reproach.”
“I’ve never seen a case like this in my 36 years as an attorney,” he said. “If she had been forthcoming to begin with, we probably wouldn’t have been here.”
He also called the racism exhibited in the case “an aberration” in Gillette.
“Gillette is a warm and welcoming town. This is not indicative of the town,” he said.
Jones was accused of firing 14 shots from a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun outside of Mingles after he and two co-workers had altercations during the evening with others at the bar. The shots were scattered across the street in front of Mingles, and they lodged in the building and in a 2010 Chevy Impala in the parking lot.
Another one hit George Mitchell while he was standing out front waiting for a ride after the bar closed. With him was his daughter and her friend.
Mitchell testified Friday that he’d been at the bar since about 3 p.m., spending the later part of the evening with his daughter to celebrate her birthday.
Attorneys had portrayed the events at the bar as racially motivated. Jones and his two cellphone tower coworkers are African American.
Prosecutor Nathan Henkes said in his opening statement that an angry Jones grabbed the gun to “show the white boys what’s up” instead of just ignoring earlier verbal or physical altercations. Before using the handgun, he and co-worker Andrea Broach allegedly tried to get into a job trailer where two AR15s were kept, he said.
On the defense side, Damsky questioned three of the four witnesses called about whether they’d heard or used racial epithets during the evening, including Mitchell, who reportedly said “n—— shot me, goddam n—— shot me.”
Mitchell said he was drunk and didn’t realize he’d used the slur until recently viewing police body camera video. He said the use of the word was embarrassing and uncharacteristic.
The three workers left as a fight outside broke up and the bar closed. But Jones was depicted in court documents as still being angry at the treatment they’d received there. After failing to get into the job trailer, Broach went to his room at the nearby Fairfield Inn and Suites and returned with a handgun, and he and Jones returned to Mingles in what Damsky said was an effort to retrieve his cellphone.
Exactly what transpired after they returned never came out in testimony during the abbreviated trial, but Henkes characterized it as saying they returned “to threaten the well-being of those there,” he said Monday.
Damsky said in his opening statements that Jones fired the gun but without intending to shoot anyone.
District Judge Michael N. “Nick” Deegan told the jury Monday that a witness “had not been truthful with investigators from the front end of this case” and that “put a wrench in the state’s prosecution.”
He said it was a unique development that he hadn’t seen in his 14.5 years on the bench.
Jones also pleaded guilty to felony destruction of property, and prosecutors will recommend a two- to three-year sentence, suspended in favor of three years of supervised probation to be served concurrently with the charge of possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent.
Jones destroyed a window at the Fairfield when he used a chair to break it and then jump from a third-floor window when police came to the door Sept. 22. He will pay for it, as well as damage to the front of Mingles and the Impala, and pay the Wyoming Division of Victim Services for Mitchell’s health care.
Deegan revoked Jones’ bond pending a presentence investigation.