GREENFIELD — A police officer who acted as a bodyguard for drug dealers won’t serve time in jail for the crimes his attorney says he was tricked into committing by the “silver-tongued con man” who headed the operation.
Jason Woods, 44, 7966 Creek Ridge Drive, Brownsburg, pleaded guilty Tuesday to official misconduct as a Class D felony and received one year on probation; in exchange, prosecutors dropped five other felony counts he’d faced.
Woods had faced eight years in prison.
Witnesses told police Woods served as a bodyguard for leaders of a synthetic marijuana-manufacturing ring, Robert Jaynes and Kirk Parsons, two Indianapolis men who were later convicted of federal drug charges.
Woods’ attorney, Harold Ansell of Indianapolis, told the judge during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing his client didn’t realize he was doing anything wrong – much like many others investigators interviewed and accused of playing a role in the operation, he said.
Ansell called Jaynes, then a pastor at an Indianapolis church, a con artist who drew many law-abiding members of his congregation to commit crimes.
Woods had been friends with Jaynes since high school and was a member of his church, Ansell said. Whenever Jaynes asked Woods for help, Woods was eager to assist because he trusted his friend, Ansell said.
“People believed they weren’t doing anything wrong because (Jaynes) told them they weren’t doing anything wrong,” Ansell said.
Woods was arrested in January 2015 as part of an investigation by Indiana State Police and Homeland Security that dated back to 2013. In October of that year, officers raided two properties: a New Palestine home where synthetic marijuana, or Spice, was being manufactured and an Indianapolis warehouse where the drugs were packaged for distribution, court documents state.
Woods was a Hendricks County sheriff’s deputy when the crimes were committed; he was fired in 2014 amid allegations he had ties to the Spice ring, officials said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Woods appeared in Hancock Circuit Court, where Judge Richard Culver accepted the last-minute plea agreement prosecutors penned with the defendant.
If Woods successfully completes the terms of his sentence, his conviction will be reduced to a misdemeanor, the judge ruled.
Eaton said the plea agreement holds the former police officer accountable for his involvement the ring while making it difficult for the man to ever work in law enforcement again, as a conviction for official misconduct would raise red flags on any background check. However, it was Woods’ lack of criminal history that in the end kept him out of jail, he said.
Woods accompanied Jaynes and Parsons as they made trips around the country because his police badge allowed him to carry a gun on a plane, according to court documents state. He regularly parked his marked patrol car outside the New Palestine home and the warehouse in Indianapolis to provide extra security; he also drove behind trucks moving drugs, paraphernalia and manufacturing materials, according to court documents.
The plea agreement proves Woods takes responsibility for his involvement, Ansell argued while asking the judge to show his client leniency.
“I don’t think the court needs to be worried about him committing further crimes,” Ansell said. “There’s a billion in one chance all of this will happen again.”
Deputy Prosecutor Marie Castetter told the judge she believes Woods knew what Jaynes and Parsons were up to and decided to help, shirking his duty as a police officer to fall in line with criminals.
“The breadth of his involvement leads us to believe it was more than just providing security,” she told the judge Tuesday.
Woods originally faced the follow charges: one Class C felony count of corrupt business influence; one Class C felony count of bribery; one Class D felony count of dealing a synthetic drug; one Class D felony count of conspiracy to commit dealing; one Class D felony count of assisting a criminal and one Class D felony count of official misconduct.
All but the official misconduct allegation were dropped in the plea agreement Woods accepted, officials said.