News (USA)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders appoints man who had sex with a minor to top state post

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders takes questions from reporters at the White House, Friday, October 27, 2017.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders in 2017 Photo: Shutterstock

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R), who has repeatedly pledged to “protect kids” with anti-LGBTQ+ laws, appointed a man to a top state prison post even though he had previously been fired from a local police force for receiving oral sex from a teen girl in a post office parking lot.

Jamol Jones, who Sanders appointed as chairman to the Arkansas Post-Prison Transfer Board in January, resigned last Friday after news agencies reported that the Benton Police Department fired him after he admitted to an internal affairs investigator that he had sexual relations as an adult with a 17-year-old girl, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The age of consent in Arkansas is 16. A ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors that Sanders signed last year includes everyone younger than 18.

A November 1, 2018 letter from Benton Police Chief Scotty L. Hodges revealed that he placed Jones on administrative leave with pay “until further notice” for lying to an internal affairs investigator about his sexual relationship with the teen. Jones said he lied because he was embarrassed and scared. An investigation found that Jones’s initial job application to join the police force “did not provide or submit certain key information” about the relationship with the minor.

Jones said he and the girl “had talked at the gym” and that “she had identified herself as an 18-year-old” before performing oral sex on him in the Benton Post Office parking lot. Though he denied knowing her actual age, the Benton Police internal affairs investigator wrote in his official report, “There was indication he knew her age and continued the relationship, even telling her that the relationship could not be found out.”

Jones admitted to wanting to keep the relationship secret. He also admitted to never asking to see the girl’s ID, even though he had been formerly trained as a police officer to confirm people’s ages by doing so. The girl’s mother said she suspected that her daughter might have lied about her age to attract male attention, and the mother added that she didn’t want Jones to go to jail over the sexual relationship with her daughter.

Nevertheless, the lie and relationship violated the department’s ethics policy and state law. Though the Saline County prosecuting attorney’s office didn’t file charges against Jones, Hodges fired Jones three weeks later.

When Sanders appointed Jones in January, she said in a statement, “His prior law enforcement experience makes him a clear choice to take on this important role, and I look forward to working together as we empower Arkansans with a safer, stronger state.”

He was meant to serve for seven years as the board’s “chief executive, administrative, budgetary, and fiscal officer” while earning an annual salary of over $95,380. The board he resigned from oversees parole, alternative sentencing programs, and expunging criminal records for eligible offenders.

State Sen. Kim Hammer (R) said that he and other senators “had no knowledge of [Jones’s] actions” before the Senate voted to confirm his appointment to the position, noting, “I was given no indication from the Governor’s office, who vets the application, that there was an issue.”

Sanders’s office didn’t respond to a media request asking if she knew of Jones’ firing from the police force before she appointed him or how her office vets potential political appointees. Her appointment of him seems at odds with her pledge to “protect kids” by passing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

In March, Sanders also signed a “Don’t Say Gay” law, banning classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation before fifth grade, as well as another bill allowing anyone who received gender-affirming care as a minor to sue their doctor up to 15 years after they turn 18 — though a court blocked it. In February, she signed a bill reclassifying drag performances as adult-oriented entertainment.

“The Governor has said she will sign laws that focus on protecting and educating our kids, not indoctrinating them and believes our schools are no place for the radical left’s woke agenda,” a Sanders spokesperson said in a statement when she signed the gender-affirming care ban.

Last November, Sandres appointed an anti-LGBTQ+ Christian nationalist to oversee state libraries. In October, Sanders issued an executive order banning “woke,” gender-inclusive language in government communications.

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