Clinton free

Adrian Clinton with attorney Bill Townsend. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

 

Convicted felon gets indictment almost 7 years later

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A convicted armed robber will not have to go to trial on a charge of illegally possessing a gun because his indictment was served almost seven years after his arrest.

Adrian Benet Clinton, 39, was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon in December 2012 and indicted by the grand jury in May 2013, but the Jones County Sheriff’s Department didn’t serve him with the indictment until last October, according to court records.

Clinton’s attorney Bill Townsend of Brandon filed a motion to dismiss the case in Jones County Circuit Court on the grounds that his client’s 6th Amendment right to a speedy trial was violated. 

In the time after the indictment, Clinton was living with his elderly grandmother on Mount Williams Road in the Hebron Community. “Someone was with her all the time,” Clinton told Judge Dal Williamson, so a family member would have known if anyone attempted to serve the indictment there, he said. 

Clinton worked for the City of Laurel, Wayne Farms. South Central Regional Medical Center and as an oil-change technician for Chris Posey Chevrolet during those years immediately after the indictment and he has lived on North 5th Avenue in Laurel for the last three years, Townsend said.

There was no record in the file to show how many attempts were made to serve Clinton, the judge said. He called it a “familiar pattern” of accused criminals not being served by the JCSD until they get pulled over for a traffic violation or encounter law enforcement at a roadblock.

Townsend said that Clinton was pulled over for speeding in December 2018 and informed that he had an outstanding warrant. Clinton, who is now an over-the-road truck driver, didn’t say what agency stopped him.

“That was the first time he knew about the warrant,” Townsend said. “They didn’t pick him up on it. The next day, (Clinton) called the (JCSD) and told them he wanted to clear it up and they told him there was no warrant and they didn’t know why he was calling. He tried to reconcile this, but he was told there was no warrant.”

The indictment was then served to Clinton’s wife at their home on 5th Avenue last October while he was on the road.

“It doesn’t seem like Mr. Clinton should have been a hard man to find,” Williamson said. “There’s no justifiable reason for a delay of nearly seven years.”

He said there was a “frenzy later” in which indictments were “suddenly able to get served.” 

Last year, the Leader-Call reported on more than two dozen accused criminals whose cases had to be dismissed because their indictments were served too late — some more than 10 years after the indictment. Supreme Court case law states that a delay of eight months or more is a violation of a defendant’s right to a speedy trial. 

Then-Sheriff Alex Hodge had a press conference to defend his department, but he also put another deputy, Bobby Moree, in charge of handling court papers.

The delay would have made it difficult to provide a defense because of faded memories of his client and the officers involved, Townsend said.

Assistant District Attorney Dennis Bisnette said that the one of the deputies who arrested Clinton was Doug Shepherd, who is now at the Petal Police Department, and Michael Smith, who was terminated by the JCSD, he said.

Clinton was convicted of armed robbery when he was 15 and served five years in prison, he said.

“It appears he’s lived a law-abiding life for some time now,” Williamson said. 

The judge said he had no choice but to dismiss the case after such a long delay in serving his indictment. In past cases, Williamson has noted that going to trial would be a waste of time and taxpayer money. If there were a conviction, the state Supreme Court would overturn the case, which would result in even more expense.

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