Pastor wants to withdraw 11-year-old plea

PERKINS TWP. Clifton T. Jones Sr., registered sex offender and bishop of Agape Love Ministries, wants to withdraw his guilty
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

PERKINS TWP.

Clifton T. Jones Sr., registered sex offender and bishop of Agape Love Ministries, wants to withdraw his guilty plea 11 years after his conviction.

His attorney, Gaye Harris-Miles, filed a motion Friday in Huron County Common Pleas Court to withdraw his January 1996 guilty plea for attempted corruption of a minor.

The conviction against Jones, now 51, stemmed from a September 1995 incident in which a 15-year-old girl told police she had consensual oral sex with the pastor in a Norwalk hotel room.

Jones declined comment Friday, directing questions to his attorney.

"At this time... after prayer and much consideration, he continues to maintain his innocence," Harris-Miles said.

Jones entered an Alford plea to the charge and agreed to register with the sheriff's office as a sex offender for 10 years. Jones is one of several area sex offenders required to register for an additional five years per a new law slated to go into effect in January 2008.

"This sentence by this court was extended by the Ohio legislature and is a violation of the separation of powers doctrine," Jones' motion states.

The sheriff's department has "exceeded their jurisdiction and usurped the power of this court," the motion states. It adds that Jones' plea could not have been "given knowingly and intelligently" because the court was not aware the Ohio law would change years later.

The motion also said the court only had evidence presented by a prosecutor and no sworn statement from the 15-year-old.

"It is not clear if Jones ever stated or explained what his motivation was for entering the Alford plea, instead giving only monosyllabic responses to the trial court's leading questions on the matter," it states.

A trial by jury is being requested in the case. Jones is the founding pastor of the 10-year-old congregation in Perkins Township.

What do the terms mean?

* Alford plea: A way of pleading guilty to a crime in a plea bargain in which the defendant is able to maintain his or her innocence. The term originated from a 1970 case in which a man entered a guilty plea to a murder charge to avoid the death penalty -- while maintaining he did not commit the crime.

* Plea bargain: An offer from a prosecutor to a defendant in which the accused pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for more serious charges being dropped.