The suspect in a string of daytime Marietta burglaries was finally able to strike a plea deal Friday and now faces a maximum of a year in jail.
"Guilty," said Matthew Jones, 28, of 502 Warren St., as he pleaded to two fourth-degree felony charges of trespassing in a habitation where a person is present or likely to be present.
Jones' plea solidified a plea agreement that had failed to come to fruition four weeks before. The agreement will give the Marietta Police Department the opportunity to interview him to try to get information about the burglaries and possible others he was connected with.
The maximum charge for each of the two counts is six months in jail. If Jones had had a prior felony, had committed a violence offense within two years, violated the conditions of his bond, caused physical harm during the incidents or had a firearm during the incidents he would have faced a maximum possible sentence of three years in prison on the charges.
"You're ready to start where you left off?" Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Ed Lane asked Jones before Friday's hearing got under way.
When prosecutors had attempted to make the same plea agreement with Jones on Aug. 10, Jones expressed concern over an increased or revoked bond.
Unsettled by Jones' reservations during the initial hearing, Lane halted the proceedings, citing the possibility that Jones' reluctance indicated a wish to continue drug usage.
However, Jones' attorney said her client had simply been worried he would not be able to make an appointment with an addiction specialist in Columbus.
"We were not sure the court would give him a PR bond...and we wanted to make sure we got our appointment done," said defense attorney Shawna Landaker.
With the appointment behind him, Jones said he was ready to move forward with the plea hearing, said Landaker.
Jones is believed by police to be connected to six daytime burglaries in the vicinity of his residence, occurring between Feb. 9 and his arrest March 13.
In exchange for being charged with only two of the incidents, Jones will be asked to provide full disclosure to Detective Troy Hawkins of the Marietta Police department about all of the incidents for which he was not charged, as well as the two to which he pleaded guilty.
In exchange for full disclosure, Jones will not be charged for any of the offenses for which he accepts responsibility, said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Rings.
However, Jones can later be found culpable of crimes he denies committing.
"If he denies any involvement in them and we later find more evidence justifying an indictment, he will be charged," said Rings.
An additional stipulation of the plea agreement involved dropping a fifth-degree felony charge of receiving stolen properly if Jones was able to return a valuable print that was stolen from Barking Dog Books and Art last December.
"Mr. Jones, through attorney Landaker returned that property, and I have returned it to Barking Dog Books," said Rings.
Lane withheld sentencing Friday, waiting instead for a pre-sentence investigation report and evaluations from SEPTA and L&P Services.
The issue of bond, which had been the wrench in the works of the first plea attempt was finally addressed Friday.
Lane ordered a personal recognizance bond with four conditions.
Jones must make weekly contact with his attorney, cooperate with all the ordered evaluations, continue seeing his addiction specialist and sign a release allowing adult probation to access the records of his counseling sessions.
While the prosecution would have initially asked for a high cash bond, Rings said he was satisfied because the defendant has stayed in good standing with the law since his arrest.
"If the defendant does as we hope he will and talks about these incidents, then this should be the last charge he will face arising from these incidents," said Rings.
Though Jones is not required to meet with Hawkins before his Oct. 18 sentencing, Rings said he is hopeful that he will.