A woman who once faced prison time on vehicular homicide and felony murder charges instead received 10 years’ probation on lesser charges Tuesday in Glynn County Superior Court, an outcome that was due to influences on the case by the county’s disbanded and discredited narcotics squad.
Katelyn Elizabeth Jones pleaded guilty before Judge Anthony Harrison to fleeing and eluding and to causing serious injury by motor vehicle, said Jackie Johnson, District Attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit.
Harrison sentenced Jones to 10 years’ probation on the charge of serious injury by motor vehicle. Jones was sentenced to one year in jail on the fleeing and eluding charge, but she was given credit for the 17 months she had already served in the Glynn County Detention Center.
Jones was driving a Chrysler 300 north on Interstate 95 in February of 2018 when she attempted to elude a traffic stop by then-Glynn County Police officer Kevin Yarborough. In the resulting pursuit, a Georgia State Patrol trooper conducted a PIT maneuver to stop the vehicle, causing it to hit a guardrail and flip. Passenger Stephen Wayne Deloach, 39, was fatally injured in the crash.
However, new information about Yarborough’s role in the pursuit came to light during investigations earlier this year into wrongdoings by some members of the Glynn-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team. GBNET was disbanded in late March, replaced by the Special Investigations Unit. County Police Chief John Powell asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into GBNET in January of this year. The GBI probe arose after fellow members of the narcotics unit brought forth allegations that GBNET member James Cassada was sexually involved with paid confidential informants. Cassada, a Glynn County Police officer, quickly resigned as the investigation grew.
During that investigation, it was determined that GBNET agents were out of their jurisdiction when they began following Jones as she drove from Jacksonville, Fla., back to Glynn County. As the GBNET agents followed her on I-95 through Camden County, they contacted Yarborough with a description of the vehicle and requested he stop the vehicle when it entered Glynn County.
GBNET agents informed Yarborough that the vehicle contained large amounts of methamphetamine from an alleged controlled purchase in the Jacksonville area. (All police found inside the vehicle afterward was a small among of narcotic sedatives.) Yarborough was advised at the scene by superiors to withhold from his report information about his contact with GBNET agents prior to the attempted traffic stop. The connection between the traffic stop and GBNET came to light during the GBI investigation into Cassada.
Law enforcement in Duval County, Fla., and in Camden County had no notice of GBNET activities there, thus the agents had no legal authority to conduct these operations outside their jurisdiction. GBNET’s involvement in the fatal traffic pursuit came to light during the GBI investigation into Cassada and other wrongdoings with the narcotics squad.
In an unrelated incident, state troopers arrested Yarborough and charged him with DUI in March while he was off duty. Yarborough was later terminated by the police department.
The defense did not gain access to Yarborough’s original report, which excluded the cooperation with GBNET officers who were operating out of their jurisdiction, until an Aug. 1 hearing.
Harrison granted the defense’s request Friday for a motion to suppress, “finding a lack of probable cause for the traffic stop,” according to a statement from Johnson’s office.
The conditions of Jones’ 10-year probation require that she submit to random drug testing and undergo mandatory drug abuse evaluation and mental health evaluation, as outlined by the Georgia Department of Community Supervision.
Members of Deloach’s family were on hand, including his aunt and sister, both of whom expressed their dissatisfaction with the sentencing.
“There are no winners here,” said defense attorney Leslie Jean Cardin, who represented Jones on behalf of the Coastal Conflict Defender’s Office. “At the end of the day, it was a terrible tragedy with more than enough blame to go around.” Defense attorney Newell Hamilton assisted Cardin in Jones’ case.
DA Johnson told The News earlier this year that the fallout from the investigation into Cassada and GBNET could ultimately disrupt the effective prosecution of dozens of existing drug cases in which the narcotics unit was involved.