The trial for New Port Richey Black Lives Matter activist Marlowe Jones starts today, even though the state attorney prosecuting the case has admitted there is no evidence other than cop testimony.
Jury selection began this morning at the Pasco County Courthouse, and the trial will proceed throughout the week.
"It was shocking to me and my attorney that the state is going through with this, even though they're lacking evidence to prove their claims against me," Jones told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
In July of 2020, Jones was arrested after a BLM demonstration in New Port Richey, where a drunk middle-aged white man attacked a woman protester. Police didn't arrest Jones on the spot, instead waiting until a week later, claiming that he had committed felony battery on a law enforcement officer.
But in February, the state attorney prosecuting Jones' case admitted to CL that the state doesn't have any evidence that Jones committed the crime, other than cop testimony.
The only evidence the office of the 6th Judicial Circuit has in its pursuit of the charges against Jones is testimony from Officer Nicholas Rickus, and an undisclosed number of his fellow officers, the state attorney said.
"The videos that have been provided do not capture the battery," Justin Homburg, the prosecutor for Jone's case told CL.
Homburg added that officer Rickus claimed he was not wearing a body camera that night, even though it is department policy, and his fellow officers were wearing cameras.
"But, you know, prior to any part of filing any felony case, we take sworn testimony to ensure that we're making the right filing decision," he said.
Homburg told CL that the only witness testimony the state has are from other police officers.
CL reached out to the state attorney's office to see if there are any updates to the evidence in the case, but hasn't heard back.
This contradicts New Port Richey Police Department Chief Kim Bogart's claim in 2020 that it took a week to arrest Jones because the police had to review video evidence and confirm that he committed the crime.
"Mr. Jones, first is tapping him on the shoulder, then turns away, pulls up his shirt, and makes this movement like he’s going to reach into his pants for a weapon," Bogart had claimed to WFTS in 2020. "Our officer reaches out, grabs his hand, and that’s when he started to push our officer."
Because the state attorney says that the only evidence the state has is cop testimony, it is important to note here that time and again, it has been found that officers have been known to lie, and often follow a "Blue Wall of Silence" code in which they practice deceit to protect each other when they do wrong.
Since his arrest almost two years ago, Jones has suffered from depression and anxiety leading up to the trial. Even driving to the supermarket with his daughters puts him in fear for their safety.
"The only thing I wanted to do was protect my city, help my city, let it flourish," Jones said. "We didn't do anything destructive."
He believes he was targeted by NPR police, because he was seen as one of the leaders of the BLM movement in the area.
"I'm trying to get people to peacefully protest. I'm not telling people to burn the city down," Jones said during the public comment portion of a city council meeting in February. "So why are they taking it out on me and making an example out of me and ruining my life?"