Review hearing in Mindy Jones arson case reset to May 6 following sentencing in Minnesota court

The scheduling of an arson trial for Mindy Jo Jones stemming from the February 13, 2022 fire that destroyed her Tin, Rust and Harmony business located at 9 Allamakee Street in Waukon will have to wait at least another month, following discussion at a Monday, April 1 review hearing of the case held by teleconference in Allamakee County District Court.

Monday’s review hearing had originally been scheduled to try and determine a jury trial date for Jones in that February 22 arson case. However, following the sentencing of Jones the previous Friday, March 29 in Fillmore County, MN to a 27-month incarceration after her conviction on several counts of felony theft in that state, the legal representation involved on both sides of the arson case agreed to delay any trial date decisions until details of her incarceration in Minnesota are further clarified, according to Allamakee County Anthony Gericke.

“Hopefully, within the next month we’ll know more about how we can proceed once details of her imprisonment are finalized,” Gericke said. “Being in a prison in Minnesota until August or September of next year and having a public defender out of Waterloo (for the arson case) certainly makes things more challenging, so even though this case has already taken a considerable amount of time to reach this point, it’s going to take a while longer to get things further figured out.”

Court documents outline that a review hearing is now scheduled for Monday, May 6 in the case, to again be held by teleconference beginning at 10 a.m. Gericke said it is anticipated that a jury trial date will be set at that time.

At the Monday, April 1 meeting of the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors, Gericke advised the board that depositions will likely be completed this summer in the case. He further advised the case will be added to the trial calendar later this year or early next year.

The jury trial for the arson charges faced by Jones has already been delayed on two occasions due to difficulties experienced with her legal representation. Now on her fourth public defender in the matter, the most recently scheduled trial that had been set for February 21 of this year was delayed after Jones and her public defender, Aaron Hawbaker of Waterloo, filed a Waiver of Speedy Trial (One Year) by Jones February 2, according to court documents, resulting in the delaying of the February 21 jury trial and verifying that she gives up her right to be brought to trial within one year of the date of her arraignment in the case, which took place in April of last year. With that waiver, Jones agreed that the State of Iowa may delay bringing her to trial beyond the one-year deadline required under Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.33(2)(c), according to available court documents.

The initial jury trial in the arson case brought against Jones had originally been scheduled in Allamakee County District Court for October 4 of last year but was moved to February 21 of this year following a ruling made at the original pre-trial conference held in the case September 11 of last year when First Judicial District Court Judge John Sullivan granted a continuance in the case. That continuance was approved after it was revealed at that pre-trial conference that Jones “had no contact with counsel for several months and defendant made an oral request for new counsel,” according to court documents filed in the case September 11.

Hawbaker was appointed as Jones’ fourth public defender shortly after that September 11 continuance was granted. Her first two public defenders were found to have conflicts of interest in previous or other cases or matters involving either Jones or others who have a legal interest in the arson case Jones is slated to stand trial for. The third appointed counsel was removed from the case following the revelation of not being in contact with Jones for several months prior to that originally scheduled pre-trial conference from last September.

Jones is facing charges of First Degree Arson and Animal Abuse in connection with the February 13, 2022 fire that destroyed her Tin, Rust and Harmony business located at 9 Allamakee Street in Waukon and killed a dog that had been living in an apartment above the business, along with destroying an adjacent business building and damaging several other buildings on that same initial block of Allamakee Street. Jones was arrested in Waterloo March 13 of last year following more than a year’s worth of investigation by local, state and federal authorities into the fire and what had been determined to be its suspicious nature.

The sentencing Jones received this past Friday, March 29 in Fillmore County, MN followed her December 2023 conviction on eight counts of felony theft stemming from forging checks and writing checks with insufficient funds. Initial court documents indicate that Jones will have to serve a minimum of 18 months of that 27-month sentence in prison and the additional nine months will be served under supervised release.