Pasco Black Lives Matter activist Marlowe Jones was found not guilty today after facing charges of battery on a former New Port Richey Police Department (NPRPD) officer on July 24, 2020.
The Pasco state attorney took the charge to trial, along with a charge of resisting without violence, even though the only evidence available was the word of the police officer who accused Jones of pushing his hand away.
After a two-day trial, six jurors came back with a not guilty verdict on both charges. The jury spent less than two hours deliberating.
Jones put his head in his hands and breathed deep after the not guilty verdicts were read.
Outside of the courtroom, it was all smiles from Jones and his supporters. “I just feel the weight off of my shoulders, I wonder if this is how Mandela felt?” Jones wondered, smiling and laughing with his friends.
For the past two years Jones has had false charges hanging over him, disrupting his life and causing him anxiety and depression. If found guilty of the charge, Jones could have faced up to five years in prison.
Jones was trying to defend the woman and break up the fight to deescalate the situation when NPRPD police officers Brian Finch and Rickus arrived at the scene.
Police intervened, that's when officer Rickus claimed Jones refused to comply with his commands and pushed the officers' hand away. The cops didn't arrest Jones that night. Instead, police arrested him a week later during another protest on July 31, 2020, to accuse him of the crime and arrest him.
A few seconds later, according to Rickus’ testimony, Jones “attacked” him. But when asked to show the court where the attack occurred in video footage from the scene, Rickus couldn’t find it.
He also couldn’t find where Jones allegedly tapped his shoulder.
“Maybe it was my upper elbow,” Rickus said while looking at the video, which didn’t confirm what he was saying.
Rickus’ testimony also contradicted his original report. In the report from July of 2020, Rickus said that he was the one who initiated contact with Jones, that he tried to grab his wrist and Jones pulled away.
Jones’ defense attorney Andrew Darling asked Rickus which story was true, the original report or what he was saying in court. “I’m going to go with my report,” said Rickus, who voluntarily resigned from NPRPD in October of 2021.
The state argued to the jury that Rickus may have been unprepared to be a witness, but was not a liar. Officer Brian Finch, Rickus’ partner, said that he did not see Jones touch Rickus, so it was unclear why the state called him as a witness.
After both testified, the state rested its case. Jones and his defense lawyer used the video footage, along with Jones’ own testimony to prove that he did not commit the crime Rickus accused him of.
In response, the state played a video during cross examination that was completely unrelated to the charges, which showed Jones during the chaotic scene talking to an NPRPD officer he was familiar with. Jones’ voice raised, asking why the police weren’t there when the crowd was attacked.
“So you were cool, calm and collected the whole time?” asked state prosecutor Justin Homburg.
“I know you’re trying to make it look like I’m some angry Black man, but I was calm and collected,” Jones said. Homburg ended cross examination after that statement.
Darling pointed out that it’s not illegal for a person to raise their voice at an officer, nor would it be illegal to yell at an officer. During closing arguments, Darling dismantled the state’s argument, appealing to the common sense of the jurors.
“You don’t get to touch somebody, then when they turn around to see you, you say, ‘Oh you battered me,’” he said in reference to officer Rickus’ claims.
Darling also accused former NPR police officer Rickus of being a liar. “That’s the thing about lies, when you make them, you have to remember them,” he said. “And officer Rickus couldn’t remember them, because he made too many.”
When asked what’s next for him, Jones said, “I’m going to ask my mom to make my favorite meal, then I’m going to have a big celebration with my people.”
Jones has an active GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for his legal fees.