OXFORD – Gerald Jones will get another chance to ask permission to appeal his 2003 sexual battery conviction.
Tuesday, the Mississippi Court of Appeals agreed 9-0 that the circuit court of Lafayette County should hold a hearing on his request.
In late 2009, Judge Andrew Howorth denied Jones’ request.
Jones was convicted and sentenced to two concurrent 25-year sentences. His attorney, Thomas Levidiotis, asked that he get a new trial or that the verdict be set aside. Howorth denied those motions.
Now, Jones says he asked Levidiotis to appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. But the notice wasn’t filed within the mandated 30 days.
Jones provided the court with two letters he says he sent to the attorney asking about his appeal. When he didn’t get a response, he complained to the Mississippi Bar.
A few months later, Levidiotis wrote Jones and said he wasn’t his attorney any more. He urged Jones to ask the court for permission to file an “out of time” appeal because too much time had passed.
Jones filed his own motion for a new attorney. Two years later, the circuit court approved it, re-appointing Levidiotis.
But the state Court of Appeals dismissed his new appeal as too late, especially without the OK for an out-of-time appeal.
Jones took the case himself and asked for reconsideration, specifically to file the out-of time appeal. He told the court that his trial counsel was at fault for not filing his direct appeal and for not asking properly for the late appeal.
The circuit court said no, which Court of Appeals Judge Ken Griffis wrote Tuesday probably was because Howorth thought it was too late to do so.
That’s the decision Jones appealed to the Court of Appeals.
Levidiotis did not respond to a Daily Journal request for comment Tuesday.
The new ruling said Jones should be heard again for several reasons laid at Leviodotis’ feet, and the court noted that the attorney’s obligation to Jones did not end with his conviction.
“The central issue,” Griffis said, was that the problems between the attorney and Jones put them in adversarial roles.
If Howorth had granted Jones a new hearing, he could have shown that his attorney failed to handle his appeal and that Jones was not to blame.
The court also suggested that reappointment of Levidiotis as Jones’ counsel “does indeed appear to be unwise and should be avoided.”
Levidiotis is a circuit judge candidate in District 3.
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal