Jones 'extraordinary assistance' earns lighter 15 month sentence

Steve Korris Jul. 30, 2009, 4:11pm

Rick Jones exits the federal courthouse in Benton after sentencing. He remains free on bond and does not have to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons until Oct. 22.

Prosecutors leave the courthouse.

BENTON – U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert sentenced former Triad Industries owner Ricki Lee Jones of Wood River to 15 months in prison for tax evasion on July 30.

Gilbert could have tripled the sentence under federal guidelines, but he took into account Jones's cooperation in a criminal investigation.

He asked prosecutor Stephen Clark if Jones provided information on "Lakin and others we might not know," and Clark said he did.

Gilbert meant Tom Lakin, founder of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, now serving prison time on cocaine charges.

Gilbert asked Clark why he sealed a motion to reduce the sentence, and Clark said defendants might not know about the investigation.

"In this case the defendant does know because I have already sentenced him," Gilbert said.

Clark said there were two others.

Jones's lawyer, James Martin of St. Louis, said the motion was sealed because "he provided extraordinary assistance."

Martin implied danger with a double negative. "That cooperation wasn't at no risk to Rick Jones and his safety," he said.

He asked for probation and Gilbert said, "That's not in the cards."

Gilbert set the sentence to start Oct. 22, delaying it so Jones can see doctors about polyps in his colon and blood in his urine.

Jones pleaded guilty in January, admitting he spent for his own benefit money that BP Amoco paid to Triad Industries for soil decontamination at its refinery.

If he had declared the money as income, he wouldn't face 15 months behind bars.

A day before sentencing he paid the Internal Revenue Service $2,435,092.

He paid BP Amoco $1,207,415.52 in restitution.

At the sentencing hearing, Clark said guidelines called for 37 to 46 months.

He proposed to cut those in half, setting a range from 18 and a half to 23 months.

Jones stepped to a microphone about 12 feet from Gilbert, looked up at him and began with an apology for his actions.

His four children and their mother, Dorothy Jones, listened from the gallery.

He expressed regrets about family and doing nothing for the homeless and hungry.

"I have many regrets but none more sickening than the one I'm here for today," he said.

"I am now a felon and have vacated from my memory my good actions," he said.

"The last few years I've been terribly miserable," he said.

"I look into the eyes of my children and I wonder what they feel about the things I've done," he said.

He said he and his wife of 35 years divorced.

"I've lost my business. I've lost my credibility," he said.

"I've lost the right to bear arms and go hunting. I've lost the right to vote," he said.

"Only my creator knows the true extent of my misery," he said.

He asked for compassion and leniency.

He sat down and Martin stepped up.

Martin said he had become fond of Jones, and called him smart and funny.

He said that in three years of the investigation Jones became a different person.

Prior to that remark, nothing in court records indicated that the government investigated Jones for three years.

Martin said Jones lost weight.

Gilbert said, "The report says obesity. He looks thin."

Martin said he was obese four years ago.

"I watched him lose his wife, clearly of his own doing," Martin said.

He said Jones cared for his father all year and watched him die.

He said Jones hunted since his youth with his father.

"How much more punishment is needed?" Martin asked.

He said that on July 29, Jones came to terms with IRS on $2.2 million in interest and penalties, due on April 15.

Martin said that as a prosecutor he put many people in jail.

"You didn't put anybody in jail," Gilbert snapped.

"I put people in jail," Gilbert said. "Judges put people in jail."

Martin said, "Since January we have seen a parade of national figures with tax problems."

Gilbert said, "Most of them end up in the Cabinet."

Martin said, "None of them have been prosecuted."

He said doctors want to see Jones in April about colon polyps.

He said doctors who can't figure out why he passes blood in his urine want to see him in October.

He said prison doctors aren't trained or equipped to care for Jones.

He called Jones a good human being with a great big heart, and he sat down.

Gilbert asked, "Is BP here?"

A man in the back of the room raised a hand.

Gilbert asked if he wanted to make a statement.

"I don't want to make a statement," he said.

Gilbert told him to state his name. "Ron Benhart," he said.

Gilbert called Jones to the bench and asked if he had anything else to say.

"I made a terrible decision in my life," Jones said.

Gilbert asked, "Why did you do it if you knew it was wrong?"

Jones stammered about how it started and Gilbert cut him off.

"I doubt seriously that you started cheating the government in 2001," Gilbert said.

"That's just as far back as the IRS went," he said.

"You didn't wake up one day and decide to rob a bank," he said.

"You woke up every day and decided to rob the government," he said.

Jones said, "It's easy to fall into, yes it is."

Gilbert said, "You are a good person who did a bad thing."

He said, "We have to sentence the criminal aspect of the individual, though we can take into consideration the good works you have done for the community."

He said that among the factors in sentencing, the kicker was adequate deterrence to criminal conduct.

"You paid a financial and personal penalty, but what kind of message would it send if I put you on probation?" Gilbert said. "It would send a terrible message."

Fifteen months, he said.

He imposed a $75,000 fine, plus $39,654 for incarceration and supervision costs.

He said the Bureau of Prisons operates medical facilities and he would recommend that Jones serve time at one.

He said he was confident that the bureau could handle Jones' health care.

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