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Arkansas parole board chair resigns after police personnel file shows he lied about sex with minor

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From the Associated Press:

The chair of Arkansas’ parole board resigned on Friday after personnel records revealed he was fired from a local police department several years ago for lying to investigators about having sex with a minor.

Jamol Jones, who Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders named the board’s chair last week, stepped down from the board after his personnel file showed he was fired from the Benton Police Department in 2018 for lying to investigators about whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. The documents, released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, were first reported Thursday night by Little Rock television station KATV.

“It has been the honor of my life to serve the people of Arkansas in this capacity,” Jones told the Talk Business and Politics website. “I am grateful to the Sanders administration for this opportunity, but this decision is being made in the best interest of me and my family.”

Jones did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press Friday night.

Jones lied twice to criminal investigators looking into the relationship, and he initially told them he had only talked with the girl, the Benton police records show. Prosecutors didn’t pursue any charges against Jones, but he was fired for violating the department’s code of ethics by lying to investigators, the documents show.

According to the documents, Jones told an internal affairs investigator that he did not know the girl’s age but he acknowledged he “should have picked up on some clues” including Snapchat messages where she talked about going to classes all day.

A spokeswoman for Sanders did not say whether the governor or her office knew about the investigation into Jones before she appointed him, or whether Sanders believed he should still serve as parole board chair.

“The Governor appreciates Mr. Jones’ service and wishes him and his family well. Her priority remains the safety and security of all Arkansans,” spokeswoman Alexa Henning said after Jones’ resignation.

Before his resignation, Henning on Friday said Jones “bravely served our nation in the Army and protected his community as a police officer providing him with the experience and knowledge to serve on the Post-Prison Transfer Board and the Board of Corrections.”

Sanders first appointed Jones to the board last year and his term expires Jan. 14, 2030. When she first appointed him to the board, Sanders said Jones’ “prior law enforcement experience makes him a clear choice to take on this important role.”

Jones is an Army veteran who also served as a corporal assigned to patrol at training divisions at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Jones did not say whether he had discussed the investigation and his firing with the governor’s office before the appointment.

“I did not break any laws, no charges were filed, but I made a mistake I’ve asked God and my families forgiveness for, and I take full responsibility for my actions,” Jones said in an email to The Associated Press before his resignation. “I am proud of my service to our country and our state, and the support of my wife and family.”

As parole board chairman, Jones also served as a member of the state Board of Corrections. The revelations about his firing came as Sanders and the panel have been in an escalating fight over who controls the state’s prison system.

A state judge has blocked a law Sanders signed last year that took away the board’s ability to hire and fire the secretary of corrections. Following that ruling, the board fired Sanders’ appointee to the post.

Andrew DeMillo is the Capitol Correspondent for the Little Rock bureau of The Associated Press.