A Michigan man who had been charged with attempted first-degree murder has pleaded no contest to a lesser charge after a witness came forward and admitted lying to law enforcement over the past 14 months when she said she didn’t have a gun during a shooting incident at Mingles Lounge on Sept. 22, 2018.
As the trial for D’Marco Jones, 24, was scheduled to enter its third day Monday, attorneys presented a plea agreement in which Jones pleaded no contest to possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent. That felony, which involves the intent to threaten the life or physical well-being of someone or to assault or injure someone, carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.
As part of the plea agreement, Campbell County Attorney Ron Wirthwein will recommend a four- to five-year sentence, suspended in favor of three years of supervised probation.
The plea deal ends the trial. A pre-sentence investigation has been ordered for Jones pending his sentencing.
District Judge Michael N. “Nick” Deegan said “the 11th hour” discovery that a witness hadn’t been telling the truth hadn’t happened in his 14.5 years as a judge.
Jones was accused of firing 14 shots from a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun outside of Mingles in the early morning hours of Sept. 22 after he and two co-workers had altercations during the evening with others at the bar.
One of the bullets hit George Mitchell, 52, in the upper right thigh. 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, Shelbie Mitchell, to celebrate her birthday. Shelbie and her friend were with him outside Mingles when the shots rang out.
Attorneys had portrayed the events at the bar as racially motivated. Jones and his two cellphone tower coworkers are African American.
In his opening remarks, prosecutor Nathan Henkes said an angry Jones grabbed the gun to “show the white boys what’s up” instead of just ignoring earlier fights.
Mitch Damsky, Jones’ attorney, questioned three of the four witnesses called about use of racial epithets during the evening, including by Mitchell, who said he was drunk and didn’t realize he’d used the N-word until recently viewing police video cam. He said the use of the word was embarrassing and uncharacteristic.
Wirthwein said Monday that Shelbie Mitchell told the victim witness coordinator on Friday that she hadn’t been truthful in statements to law enforcement, and that she had brandished a gun during a fight in the volleyball court area outside of Mingles that evening.
That changes the tenor of the case, Wirthwein said.
“The deal that we struck is justice for both sides,” he said.
See story in Tuesday’s News Record for more details.