The former counterterrorism chief for the state of Texas was charged this week with possession of child pornography, a month after Travis County prosecutors declined to pursue an unrelated sexual assault charge that led to his firing in 2019.
John Jones Jr., who once led the Texas Department of Public Safety’s intelligence and counterterrorism operations, learned of the new charge Wednesday from the American-Statesman.
Jones’ attorney called the charge “blatant retaliation by the Travis County sheriff’s office” because Jones is planning a civil lawsuit against their office.
Investigators discovered a cached web image of child pornography when authorities confiscated Jones’ work phone in 2019 during the sexual assault investigation, his arrest affidavit says. Freeman Martin, deputy director of DPS’s homeland security division, told investigators that Jones would have no reason to access such content on his state-issued phone.
A doctor confirmed that one of the images is likely a girl between 10 and 15 years old, the affidavit says.
The Travis County DA’s office told Adam Muery, Jones’ attorney, a year and a half ago that they discovered the image and would not proceed with a prosecution for a charge because a single image was not sufficient evidence to ethically proceed with a prosecution, Muery said.
“Now, 18 months later, the Travis County sheriff obtains this warrant. … They want the headline to be that John Jones is being charged with child pornography and not that the sexual assault charges were finally dismissed after a senior district judge found that there was no reasonable basis to believe a sexual assault occurred,” Muery said.
The Travis County DA’s office and the sheriff’s office declined to comment on the cases.
Jones was fired from DPS immediately after his arrest on July 30, 2019, over the sexual assault charge. He contends it was consensual sex; the woman says Jones raped her.
Intelligence experts warned that any type of misbehavior, criminal or not, can leave top officials open to compromise and puts Texas secrets at risk. Jones, who is married, admits that his actions compromised him.
“Anyone who’s a law enforcement officer is always trained to be aware of how their position of authority can be compromised by things that they do that are either illegal or perhaps immoral,” said David Weinstein, who previously worked as a prosecutor in the Public Integrity National Security section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, which investigated public officials and law enforcement.
Infidelity can compromise people who work in intelligence because it makes them vulnerable to blackmail, Weinstein said. Although that doesn’t appear to have been the situation in Jones’ case, Jones should have been aware that he was putting himself in a position that could have compromised himself or the work he oversaw, Weinstein said.
Frank Fernandez, a police practices expert from the U.S. Department of Justice, said when an intelligence official is compromised, the information they protect is compromised.
“Lifestyle matters in those critical, high-level, sensitive positions,” Fernandez said. “Those people that are in those positions acknowledge it when they accept it.
Jones acknowledged that he was compromised by having sex with another woman.
“I regret it,” he told the American-Statesman.
However, the information he oversaw was not compromised because he did not share any classified information with the woman, he said. Jones added that he has never heard of anyone losing a DPS job due to infidelity and he does not believe he should have lost his job over it.
Steve McCraw, DPS director, fired Jones because he lost confidence in Jones’ ability to effectively lead the intelligence and counterterrorism division, according to a July 30, 2019, letter. The letter does not go into further detail.
If Jones was fired over infidelity, it would be the “height of hypocrisy,” Muery said.
“I don’t think I need to go into specific details,” Muery said. “But if DPS had an infidelity policy for their rangers, for their commanders or across the board, then there would be far fewer employees of the Texas Department of Public Safety.”
Jones’ public service career included missions as a U.S. Navy SEAL. He joined DPS in 2009 and, before his firing, led the agency’s Austin-based intelligence and counterterrorism division with 150 analysts from across Texas.
Jones oversaw the state fusion center and the Texas Joint Crime Information Center, a round-the-clock operation that works closely with federal, state, regional and local law enforcement, and served as the state’s point person for homeland security information and incident reporting.
Sexual assault case
Jones told the Statesman that it was unethical and bad practice for the vast majority of the investigation into the reported sexual assault to take place after he was arrested and fired.
“They already had the paperwork done before they even interviewed me,” Jones said, referring to his arrest affidavit and his DPS termination paperwork.
Evidence in the case collected by the Texas Rangers and Travis County sheriff’s investigators includes a physical assessment of the woman hours after the alleged assault; statements from Jones, the woman, people at the party and other family members; and data from Jones’ phone, Jones’ wife’s phone and their computer.
In November, visiting judge Judge Jon Wisser denied the woman a request for a lifetime protective order against Jones saying he did not find the evidence on the sexual assault charge to be clear and convincing.
A woman told authorities Jones assaulted her on July 20, 2019, in the woods near his home after he took her for a ride on a four-wheeler during a party.
Jones denies the encounter was rape. “It was consensual through the whole process,” he said.
Jones has not yet been arrested on the possession of child pornography charge because he is out of town, and Muery is talking to investigators about having Jones turn himself in.
The charge “has nothing to do with law enforcement and everything to do with politics and public image,” Muery said.
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