CROWN POINT, Ind. (STMW) — Lake Superior Court jurors convicted Gary, Ind. City Attorney Carl Jones of trafficking with an inmate.

Jurors in the courtroom of Judge Sheila Moss deliberated about 45 minutes Thursday before returning the guilty verdict on the misdemeanor charge, which is punishable by a maximum one-year sentence. A sentencing hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 18.

Special Prosecutor J. Edward Barce, the outgoing Newton County prosecutor, introduced as evidence the padded manila envelope containing contraband — nine cigarettes — along with liquid makeup, letters and stamps that Jones gave to inmate Jeffrey Perez, who later was convicted of murder. The visit where Jones delivered the envelope to Perez was caught on videotape.

Jones, 42, said a vendetta by Lake County deputy prosecutor John Burke led to the case against him after Jones said he refused to have one of his clients, Luciana Yzaguirre, testify against Perez, her boyfriend and co-defendant. Jones represented the two co-defendants in the 2006 strangulation murder of Ruben Rodriguez, 55, of Lake Station. Perez, 36, is serving a 55-year sentence for murder in perpetration of a robbery.

Gary Mayor Rudy Clay likened Jones’ conviction to running a red light.

“It doesn’t mean anything as far has his job is concerned,” Clay said. “All it is is a misdemeanor.”

Jones’ visit with Perez at the Lake County Jail was on Jan. 26, 2007, three days before Perez’s murder trial began.

Questioned by Barce, Jones angrily denied he was paid anything to carry in the envelope, which Jones said contained “letters of encouragement” from Perez’s mother. “I got a bunch of embarrassment because my name has been dragged through the mud by your office and the press,” Jones said.

Defense attorney Jerome Taylor said in his closing argument that his client had no idea what was in the envelope, which former correctional officer Jason Gonzalez said he saw Jones slide across the table. Perez put it under some of his legal papers. Correctional officer Alfonso Rodriguez said after Jones and Perez were through with their meeting, he searched Perez’s paperwork and found the sealed envelope addressed to “Jeff.”

In fact, a letter in the packet was from Yzaguirre, who offered to perjure herself for Perez during his trial. “I already told Carl I would. I will lie under oath for you because I love you and I want you home, but I have to know when you go home and I stay in jail for the next 7 months are you gonna wait for me?” the letter states.

Yzaguirre’s jury trial for felony murder ended in mistrial. She pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Barce said the fact that Jones testified he gave the envelope to Perez without knowing its contents makes it even worse because it could have contained a razor blade or drugs.

Burke said he had spoken with Yzaguirre in the presence of her former attorney, Lemuel Stigler. After Jones began representing Yzaguirre, he accused Burke of threatening her with her children being taken away, but Stigler testified that never happened. “All I wanted was for Luciana to tell the truth,” Burke said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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