Mindy Jones to remain in jail awaiting her fourth sentencing hearing

Mindy Jones

For a third time in as many weeks, final sentencing for her most recent felony conviction has been postponed for Mindy Jones, after she appeared in a Fillmore County courtroom Monday, March 4. Jones was convicted in Dec. 2023 of eight counts of felony theft related to financial transactions at her former Harmony, Minn., business and was scheduled for sentencing mid-February. Her first court appearance, Feb. 12, was postponed to Feb. 16 due to a reported medical emergency, which was later determined to be a forged doctor’s note at the Feb. 16 sentencing hearing. Jones was placed in jail that day, where she has remained throughout the sentencing process.

Public Defender Milind Shah, who served as Jones’ defense attorney, recused himself Feb. 28 in the aftermath of the forged doctor’s note, as continuing to represent her was a conflict of interest. 

Shah was replaced with Assistant Public Defender Graham Henry, who appeared at the March 4 hearing alongside Jones. Having only been assigned the case five days prior, Henry asked the court for a continuance to allow him more time to read through the lengthy case documents and be thoroughly prepared to argue in Jones’ defense. 

County Attorney Brett Corson argued Henry’s request, citing Henry had mentioned a continuance to Corson only five minutes before the hearing began. Corson declared not only could the public defender’s office have assigned two lawyers to the case to prevent unnecessary delays, but also said the office should be fined $1,000 for waiting until the last minute to ask for a continuance without ample prior notification.  

“I’ve sat in trials where I am the only attorney, and there are two public defenders sitting across from me trying the case,” Corson lamented.   

Corson then explained his request for the $1,000 fine, declaring, “I never received an e-mail, a call, or a motion before today, requesting a continuance. The public defender’s office knew … and surely could have filed a motion and sent an e-mail to me, but that was not done. I find that somewhat disrespectful … to the people that have to show up today.”

Henry rebutted, passionately expressing, “All the reasons for the delay were not caused by me. All the reasons for the issues here were not caused by me. There is absolutely nothing that the public defender’s office [did], or me personally, that would justify even making that request in a public courtroom.” 

Judge Clinefelter quelled the tense mood in the court, declaring he was not going to sanction the public defender’s office.  

The judge then turned his words to Jones and addressed her directly. “You, Miss Jones, that’s why we are having the delays. You used your previous attorney – who had been with you for so long – to essentially deceive the court.” 

Judge Clinefelter continued, “In doing so, you used his integrity. Because he is an officer of the court, submitting the material you requested he submit, now he has a conflict.”

Judge Clinefelter approved the continuance for sentencing until Friday, March 29, at 2:15 p.m., to give Henry time to prepare. 

 “I am not going to create appellate issues,” the judge summarized. “The most important factor is Miss Jones has counsel that is fully-informed and fully up-to-date on a complicated case in a complicated sentencing issue.”  

Running consecutively with the sentencing hearing was a pretrial settlement conference regarding a separate criminal trial originally scheduled to begin March 18, in which Jones is charged with committing 33 counts of theft and forgery in 2021. Citing concerns regarding 10 of the counts, Henry and Corson agreed to postpone the trial and investigate further each count in question. Judge Clinefelter scheduled an omnibus hearing for March 29 at which time the lawyers and judge will address any lingering issues and concerns. A new trial start date for the 33 counts is anticipated to be set after the omnibus hearing. 

Additionally, Jones is scheduled for a review hearing Monday, April 1, in Iowa’s Allamakee County Court on charges of First Degree Arson and Animal Abuse, related to her former business in Waukon, which was destroyed by a fire in 2022. Charges were filed against Jones following the results of a full investigation by the Iowa Fire Marshall’s Special Investigators and Allamakee County fire department and law officials.

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