Jones in jail after defrauding court with fake medical excuse

By Denise Lana,

Mindy Jones

After appearing at a Fillmore County, Minn., courthouse Feb. 16 to be sentenced regarding her recent conviction of eight counts of felony theft, Mindy Jones is again behind bars. The sentencing hearing was postponed, but Jones was still taken into custody — Not because she was found guilty, but because she was declared a “danger to the community” by Presiding Judge, Jeremy Clinefelter.  

Jones was convicted in December 2023 of eight counts of felony theft involving financial transactions at her former Harmony, Minn., consignment store. After the December conviction, Jones was released and returned to her home in Waterloo but was due back in court Feb. 12 for sentencing. With eight counts of felony theft carrying a jail sentence from 21 to 26 months, it was presumed that Jones would go to jail after the Feb. 12 sentencing hearing. 

When Feb. 12 arrived and Jones was noticeably absent in the courtroom, Jones’ attorney, Minnesota public defender Milind Shah, presented medical documents and explained that Jones indicated “she had a seizure and fell down the steps.” Shah added that Jones was being discharged from the hospital Monday afternoon. Prosecuting attorney Brett Corson rebuffed, “This has happened in other cases, and I am very concerned. This appears to be a presumptive recommended sentencing, so the concern is the defendant is trying to avoid court.” 

When asked by Clinefelter if there were other cases where Jones had medical issues on days of sentencing in other counties, Corson said that his understanding was she had a medical emergency in Allamakee County, and during a separate court case, Jones had an incident where she ended up in the hospital. Clinefelter declared that he would not play doctor in the decision and deferred to the medical documents that showed Jones was in the emergency room. 

“I am not prejudging anything she is going to say but obviously both parties have read the court’s findings in this trial and suffice it to say, the court has a great deal of skepticism when it comes to Ms. Jones and her credibility,” expressed Clinefelter. “However, it is not simply her word, I do have information she is genuinely experiencing some type of medical issue. The court is not going to treat her any differently than any other party who comes to court.” 

With that declaration, Clinefelter rescheduled the sentencing hearing for four days later, Feb. 16, at 1:30 p.m. 

When Shah asked if the time could be set later in the day on Friday to accommodate Jones’ neurology appointment, Clinefelter stood firm, declaring Jones needs to be in the court. 

“Ultimately, if she is not here, I can’t pre-rule,” Clinefelter said, “but obviously, Mr. Shah, you can read the tea leaves and advise her, at some point we are going to go get her and bring her here.”  

With that, the hearing concluded, and both parties prepared for the sentencing scheduled for Friday at 1:30 p.m. 

When Friday came, Ms. Jones arrived at the Fillmore County Courthouse accompanied by a female friend. She didn’t interact with anyone, and her companion sat in the front row of public benches, back and to the left of Jones. 

Shah, who had filed a motion at noon prior to the sentencing, addressed the Court regarding his motion. He cited concern regarding elements of Jones’ non-Minnesota offenses in her criminal history. In Iowa, different levels of felony convictions are assigned points, much like points accrued on someone’s driver’s license. Shah stressed concerns that several of Jones’ prior convictions in Iowa, specifically one for forgery regarding the attempted use of a credit card, and a second conviction of felony forgery for forging $164,000 in checks, might not equal the same amount of points if those convictions would have transpired in Minnesota. Clinefelter and Shah volleyed the discussion for the majority of the 45-minute hearing, with Clinefelter stating that part of the problem with the motion is the fact that Shah had filed it less than two hours prior to the hearing. 

“You’re referencing documents I don’t have in front of me,” proclaimed Clinefelter. “You’re asking me to rule on something I haven’t even seen.” 

Ultimately, Clinefelter said that he wanted to avoid any hasty decision going up on appeal and coming back for remand. 

“I want to make sure we provide the court thorough and complete information,” Corson said. “This case is important enough that I want to do that.” 

He said that he would need some extra time to gather the Iowa documents regarding the convictions in question and have them be translated properly from Iowa law to Minnesota law. 

Clinefelter agreed, saying, “I pulled up the Iowa code and browsed through it. Not suprising, it is completely unfamiliar to me since I have never practiced law in the state of Iowa.” 

A continuance was then granted and set for March 4 at 2:30 p.m. 

The judge’s attention subsequently turned to the subject of bail for Jones, and Corson dropped a bomb on the court, as he rehashed what had transpired the prior evening. 

Corson received from Shah a medical document that appeared to be from Unity Point medical clinic in Waterloo, where Jones resides. The document stated that Jones had an appointment Friday, Feb. 16, at 2:15 p.m. in the Waterloo office “to readjust the medication she is prescribed for her epilepsy.” 

“It is imperative that Mindy keeps her scheduled appointment at this time due to the recent hospital visit behind her medical condition,” the documented continued. “If we don’t get this addressed immediately it runs the risks of permanent damage to the brain or even death should she have another epileptic episode.” 

The note reflected the electronic signature of an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) who works at the clinic. 

Corson expressed that his office was concerned about the unusual wording in the document and reached out to Unity Point to confirm its validity. A representative for the ARNP in question responded to Corson, stating the ARNP “did NOT compose this letter, nor does she agree with the statements included in the letter.” 

Corson then forwarded the letter to the Fillmore County Court Administration, asking that the Court deny the defendant’s request for a continuance, “since the letter alleged to be from … Unity Point Family Clinic in Waterloo, Iowa, is a false, fictitious, and/or fraudulent document which appears to have been provided to the Court by the defendant for the purpose of deceiving the Court.” 

Corson summed up the situation for the court, expressing a “great concern” about the letter. “It appears to have been fabricated for the purpose of deceiving the court, and we have great concern about the defendant’s appearance in the future.” Corson continued, “I would have the court put into place conditional bail or some other protections to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.” 

Shah replied that he could not address anything that happened with the fabricated letter, because, he explained, “At this point, my interests are not the same as Ms. Jones’.” He then added he was trying to protect his professional reputation. 

Despite that, Shah argued on Jones’ behalf, saying that even though she knew the hearing was a presumptive commitment and she was most certainly going to jail, Jones still showed up. He beseeched the judge to allow her to remain free pending the March 4 hearing, saying that her showing up “counts for a lot.”  

Clinefelter rebutted, “That does count, but it doesn’t count enough, in my estimation.”  He then addressed Jones. “I am going to hold you pending sentencing. I think the problem is that the court just cannot trust anything you are presenting to it. I do find that you are a danger to the community, based on what I have read and what I have seen. You are an acquisitive crime of dishonesty and false statement waiting to happen, and I am not going to put you out in the community until this is resolved.” 

The court was pin-drop silent as the judge continued. “I cannot overlook the conduct … In 20 years of practicing criminal law, for someone to submit to the court through their attorney, a forged record from a doctor, indicating they have a life-threatening situation and need a continuance. I’ve never seen it. It’s beyond the pale.” 

Court was adjourned, and as a deputy crossed the room to put Jones’ in handcuffs, Jones turned to a person in the audience and called her an expletive. Almost immediately, Jones’ friend repeated the expletive as she was exiting the seating area and then continued using expletives as she made her way out of the courtroom. 

Jones is being held at the Fillmore County Detention Center and will be back in court March 4 at 2:30 p.m. for review of the non-Minnesota offenses and sentencing. 

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