Antonio Jones found guilty of two counts of 3rd-degree rape
RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - On Nov. 17, a Rapides Parish jury found Antonio Jones, 48 of Alexandria, guilty of two counts of third-degree rape.
Sentencing is set for Dec. 12.
Rapides Parish District Attorney Phillip Terrell called the verdict “right, correct and fair.”
Jones was standing trial for raping a Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office confidential informant (CI) in January 2021 during a RADE operation in which she was looking to buy meth. During that drug buy, jurors found that Jones raped her twice by forcing her to perform oral sex on him.
“We are of course disappointed with today’s verdict. A last-minute motion filed today by the prosecution handicapped our defense of Mr. Antonio Jones by substantially limiting what the jury was allowed to hear. Further, it is our opinion that both the alleged victim and Mr. Antonio Jones are in fact causalities of a poorly run sting operation. We maintain Antonio Jones’ innocence and are preparing for the next steps in his defense.”
In September, the January 13, 2021, RADE operation garnered national attention when the Associated Published an article on the rape, along with criticism around RPSO’s handling of it, treatment of their confidential informant and the RADE operation itself.
“It’s a dangerous job what she was doing, and I commend her for doing it,” said Brian Cespiva, lead prosecutor on the case. “The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office did absolutely nothing wrong in this case, and I think that came out in the trial today. And you even heard it from the victim herself when she said, you know, ‘I don’t blame them.’ It’s dangerous out there.”
On Thursday morning, the State filed a motion in liminie to prevent the defense from going into the alleged sexual history/conduct of the victim with the defendant or anyone else.
Prosecutor Brian Cespiva said defense attorney James Word tried to “plant a seed” in the jury’s head of a relationship between Jones and the victim during jury selection. Cespiva said it was inappropriate. The defense argued they were able to bring up the history so long as it related to the relationship between Jones and the victim only, as the State’s primary evidence, video of the drug buy/alleged rape “opens the door” to a prior sexual relationship. Defense attorney Phillip Robinson said not allowing them to ask such questions would “handicap” them pertaining to the video.
Cespiva rebutted, saying that the Defense’s belief is a “misinterpretation” of communication in the video.
The State’s ultimate point in filing their motion this morning was that it was a “necessary prerequisite” for the Defense to file a motion related to a sexual relationship before the trial began.
Judge Chris Hazel granted the State’s motion. The Defense objected.
*On this issue, defense attorney James Word introduced the necessary motion after the jury was released at noon for lunch. Receiving the motion, Judge Hazel heard no argument, simply saying, “The motion is denied.”
Following the verdict, the defense would make the argument that the prosecution’s “handicapped our defense of Mr. Antonio Jones by substantially limiting what the jury was allowed to hear.”
The State gave opening arguments following the motion. Cespiva detailed how the case had “gotten under his skin.” He said third-degree rape cases are usually called “date rape” cases, arguing this case was not that.
Cespiva described the victim as a single mother who was “struggling with the demon of addiction.” As a confidential informant, she conducted a drug buy on Jan. 13, 2021, with Jones, at which time she was “orally sodomized.”
Cespiva ended his opening statement, saying this case “rips [his] soul apart” and cases like this make him lose faith in the world.
“But there’s still good people in this world,” Cespiva told the jury. “And we’re counting on y’all.”
In defense attorney Phillip Robinson’s opening statement, he asked the defendant, Jones, to stand up and face the jury. He said Jones is a son, brother and father.
“[Jones is] not a perfect man by any means, but not a monster as the State depicts him to be,” said Robinson.
On the video, Robinson asks the jury to use their common sense when viewing it and to notice that the victim had the opportunity to leave, that the act lacked force, that she had a “casual” walk out of Jones’ house. He also told the jury to “pay close attention” to the account the victim gave to police directly after the alleged rape.
He said any traumatized victim acts with a fight, flight or freeze response but alleged the victim did not display any of them.
Instead, Robinson said the victim was “embarrassed” because the alleged rape was on camera.
The state called three witnesses to testify. The victim was the last witness called.
RADE narcotics agent Cassie Saucier testified that the victim had a history of working with RADE for drug buys and had proven herself as a reliable confidential informant. She said the victim volunteered for the drug buy with Jones.
They wired the victim with a camera that did not relay a live feed. However, Saucier and two other officers were parked nearby, with a view of the house, keeping surveillance. She said “we don’t abandon people,” but they were unable to view inside the residence during the drug buy.
Saucier testified that when the victim returned to her car following the buy, the victim immediately called her to report the rape.
Saucier had her return back to the RADE office, at which time Saucier watched the recording and verified the allegations of rape.
At this time in Saucier’s testimony, the prosecution played a more than 30-minute long recording of the drug buy, which included both the minutes before the victim’s arrival at Jones’ house, in which she was listening to Q-93 and making phone calls to the doctor’s office, and the time spent in the house, where the victim performed oral sex on Jones twice.
Our reporter in the courtroom for this trial did not view the video but listened to the audio. However, the jury did both. It was so graphic, two jury members had to cover their eyes or look away while it played. At the end of the viewing, the defense moved for a mistrial on the grounds that some of the jury did not watch the video in its entirety. Judge Hazel denied the motion.
In the video, the victim consistently re-iterates that she wants to leave to visit her father who is in the hospital with a rapidly spreading cancer. She can be heard crying and saying no, while Jones tells her to stop crying and gives her several commands not appropriate to broadcast on television or repeat in this article.
After the first rape, the victim leaves the home to retrieve a scale from her car. At this point, the drug buy had not occurred in its entirety. When she returned, Jones raped her once again.
Following the completion of the buy, the victim exited the home, got in her vehicle and called Saucier to report the rape. Saucier instructed the victim to meet her back at the RADE office, which is considered the “safe place” for victims.
The drive back to the RADE office was silent for 10 minutes until the victim once again turned on Q-93.
According to Saucier’s testimony, at the station, the victim was “hysterical” and “crying,” as Saucier tried to calm her down.
Based on the video and the victim’s statement to law enforcement after, several warrants, including an arrest warrant, were issued for Jones.
Detective William George, Supervisor for RPSO’s SVU investigations and the State’s second witness, took the victim’s statement and carried out those warrants. During his testimony later, he told the jury he did not believe a statement was even necessary for arrest after he viewed the video.
On cross-examination, Robinson asked Saucier about her work with Confidential Informants (CI), including how RADE provided for the safety of CIs. She said every situation is different. She re-iterated RADE did not have live feeds at the time of the January 2021 RADE operation.
On the victim’s work with RADE, Saucier recalled that her work as a CI for the January 2021 case involving Jones was voluntary and she was unaware of what benefits the victim might have received from working with RADE. In previous testimony, Saucier had emphasized the Rapides Parish District Attorney’s office arranges help for CIs as it pertains to charges they may be facing.
Saucier also testified that the victim no longer works as a CI with RADE.
The victim, who we will not be identifying, testified that she has battled addiction for 20 years. Her drug of choice is meth. She has been clean for two months now and has been in rehab. However, following the rape in January 2021, she relapsed after having been sober for some time.
The day of the rape, she had also learned of her dad’s cancer diagnosis.
In State questioning, she told the jury she did not give permission for oral sex with Jones.
The defense then questioned the victim on her motivation for working with RPSO. She said she wanted to help clean the streets and get her life back together.
She met Jones through a mutual friend and described they had a business relationship. She would buy drugs from him or take people to him who wanted to buy drugs.
She said before Jan. 13, 2021, she had never experienced violence from Jones. When asked why she did not leave after the first rape, when she went to get to the car to retrieve a scale, she said, “I was trying to get the job done.”
When asked about her comments in the video, like how she had Jones’ back, she said, “I was saying anything I could to get out of there.”
She said she was not pressured by RPSO, she does not blame them, and she has not retained counsel to sue RPSO.
Both the State and Defense rested shortly after the victim’s testimony, with Robinson informing the court on record that Jones would not be taking the stand for his defense. Robinson offered no additional witnesses and did not recall a witness to the stand.
In his closing arguments, Cespiva argued “that video is my closing argument.”
“Simple law here: No means no,” said Cespiva.
Robinson told the jury the case is “more nuanced” and “not as simple” as the State made it out to be and that it was a “different environment” that Jones and the victim were operating in.
He analyzed each witness’s testimony, alleging the victim had the opportunity to leave when she went to retrieve the scales. On the victim’s testimony, he pointed to her statement that she had to “get the job done.”
“Any coercion to stay is not with Antonio Jones but RPSO,” said Robinson.
Cespiva would later say he thought it “backfired” on the Defense “when they came out trying to take her character down, and I don’t think the jury liked that at all.”
Prosecutor Johnny Giordano followed with a rebuttal. He said Robinson blamed everyone but Jones, but that Jones “controlled the game.”
Jones is represented by Phillip Robinson, James Word and Randall Hayes. Prosecutors Brian Cespiva and Johnny Giordano acted for the State.
Click here to report a typo. Please provide the title of the article in your email.
Copyright 2022 KALB. All rights reserved.