Mindy Jones dubbed ‘habitual violator’ by sentencing judge, now behind bars in Minnesota prison

By Denise Lana,

Mindy Jones was served with sentencing Friday, March 29, on the eight counts of Felony Theft, et al, of which she was found guilty in the Fillmore County Court in Preston, Minn.

At the sentencing, Jones’ lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Graham Henry, shared a lengthy plea with the court, “I think it’s important for the court to know a little bit about Miss Jones as (the court is) here now to sentence her for something terrible … something that has had an impact on many people’s lives, is still having an impact, and likely will have an impact in the long term.”

Henry reminded the court that the offenses Jones was being sentenced for were all from 2020 and 2021, and since the offense he reported, Jones closed her businesses and started working full time, had a grandchild, quit drinking and has addressed her mental health issues.  

Jones committed theft by swindle, as Henry explained her motives, “not wanting to fail as a business owner.” He continued, saying Jones dealt with her business issues in one of the worst ways possible, but was “nonetheless trying to deal with the desperation that goes with trying to keep the doors of her business open.”

Henry stated Jones’ business was reportedly doing well pre-COVID, and that when COVID hit, it impacted her business so heavily, resulting in Jones trying to solve her financial problem in a way that resulted in her participating in theft by swindle. He told the court her behavior “didn’t originate from a place of maliciousness. She wasn’t trying to render people penniless or poor.”

Henry explained that Jones now started working full-time, 40 hours a week at a regular job and also maintaining a second job with a home delivery service.  

According to Henry, Jones was working hard to try and keep up with restitution payments she is currently making on behalf of a separate conviction stemming in Iowa.  

“She still owes on that, she still pays on that.” Henry stated to the court.  

As he continued, Henry declared that Jones shared she had a “fairly extensive problem with alcohol abuse, used as an escape from the numerous mental health issues that were untreated at the time … she has reported to me that she has been sober since addressing her mental health.” 

He explained that Jones shared with him that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, manic depressive bi-polar and bipolar disorder, emphasizing that she was diagnosed and unmedicated prior to very early 2023. 

Henry expounded Jones’ mental health issues contributed to legal issues encountered throughout her life, and culminated in 2022 when she tried to commit suicide after her business closed and she was “swinging between depression and mania.”  

Henry concluded that Jones “is living in a whole new world,” and is not ashamed.  

“She’s proud,” Henry summarized, “The Mindy Jones that committed these offenses back in 2021 probably deserved to go to prison,” proclaimed Henry, continuing, “And I think that Mindy Jones from 2024 would agree that Mindy Jones from 2021 who committed these offenses probably would have deserved a prison sentence.”

Henry then summarized why the court should grant Jones a departure and consider not sending her to prison.  

“She is not the same person that committed these offenses,” he stressed. “Continuing her mental health treatment is significant … if she were to be sent to prison, there’s no guarantee what type of situation we might find in a year or year and a half from now, when she is thrown back in society and forced to try and adapt. Mental health is a fickle thing and if not actively treated … could make you do things that you don’t realize, or change your personality, and prison will only exacerbate and aggravate those underlying issues.”  

Henry summarized his argument by stating that Jones’ earnings in prison would be estimated at $2 per day, with 10 percent garnished for restitution. 

“That’s 20 cents per day,” said Henry. “I’m confident that it would be significantly more likely that she would be able to keep up with restitution payments out of prison. The people she harmed need to be made whole as much as possible. If she goes to prison, she’s not going to have money to pay restitution, she’s not going to be earning enough money to be earning to make any dent … that doesn’t give anyone money … that’s not going to happen if she gets sent to prison.”  

It is a probation violation if she does not make restitution payments, However Jones still owes hundreds of thousands in restitution from her 2016 embezzlement in Iowa.  

At that time, Jones was given the opportunity to address the court. Jones stated for the record, “I just want to say that I never meant for this to happen, I did fight hard to keep my business open … I don’t want her to think I would ever hurt her, because I would never hurt anybody, physically. I am so very sorry it went like this, I do have every intention of paying back everything I owe.”

Clinefelter then spoke to the court, directing his words at Jones, “We are here only for what you’re charged with and the conduct of this case. The court’s only agenda is to apply the law … objectively … fairly.”

Clinefelter explained to the court that sentencing guidelines in Minnesota are very rigid. Also, Clinefelter said that he does not have the ability in Jones’ case to have sentences served consecutively.  

The judge did not grant Jones’ departure, which would have allowed her to serve probation instead of going to prison.  He stated, “The idea that you would be on probation to pay additional restitution simply is not a valid factor. I cannot imagine having to look in Miss Angell’s eye as a judge, placing you on probation and subjecting her to additional years of being on probation attempting to pay restitution. That would make a mockery of the justice system.” Marsha Angell had been the victim of Jones in this case.

Clinefelter cited Jones’ extensive criminal history, specifically Jones’ first acquisitive recorded crime involving dishonesty and false statement, which took place in 1997 when Jones was 17 years old.  

Still addressing Jones, Clinefelter elaborated, “When I look at your criminal history, in 1997, forgery and theft — acquisitive crimes — meaning you are acquiring things that don’t belong to you. You are using deception and false statement to accomplish the offense.  And then theft in 2002, theft in 2005, theft in 2006, financial transaction card fraud 2007 with multiple counts, your first series of felony offenses. You go two or three years, and then you have five counts occurring in 2012, sentenced in 2016, I believe you went to prison for some time, was it the entire five years?” At which time, Jones answered the judge, saying she was in prison for 10 months.  

Clinefelter declared Jones a ‘habitual violator’ with nothing in her records to show any positive reasons for probation over prison. He said that he could not seriously entertain anything other than the presumptive sentence of prison.  

With more than 50 people watching the sentencing via video conference or in person, Clinefelter observed, “The reason there is so much interest in this case is because you have just left this trail of victims — because of how you have dealt with people over the years.”

Jones was sentenced to prison for a total of 102 months across four charges, two charges for 24 months each and two charges for 27 months each. Consecutive sentences are not allowed in Minnesota, so the maximum sentence of 27 months would be applied to the group, with Jones serving two-thirds in prison with the remaining one-third in supervised release.  

She was fined $50 in court fines, $90 in cost and surcharges, and $75 for public defender charges, and was given credit for 45 days already served prior to sentencing.  

Clinefelter closed the sentencing by addressing Jones one last time. 

“It’s always sad to see a person get sent to prison … it means that you just aren’t behaving and making the right choices. There may be mental health components here, and if there are, you should definitely follow through with that. Based on everything I’ve seen … I just do not trust what you say.  You need to start doing the right thing by your actions. Change, do what you need to do. Otherwise, with your criminal history, you’re simply going to be in and out of the court system.”

Jones was transferred to Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee, Minn., to complete her prison sentence.   

A pretrial hearing for a separate trial regarding Jones’ 33 charges of theft and forgery is scheduled for Monday, April 29, at 10 a.m., via video conference.  

Jones’ third pending trial for Felony Arson and Animal Cruelty will begin with a pretrial meeting May 6, at 10 a.m., via teleconference.   

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