Bedeviling Mr. Jones
Dispute with city makes soul-food purveyor a marked man
If you ask Drake Jones who is responsible for controlling the kids hanging out on Del Paso Boulevard near his Plantation restaurant, he’ll tell you it’s the police.
“This is one of the first black-owned clubs in North Sacramento. It’s brought a lot of people out,” Jones explained. But he can’t be held responsible for every person in the area, he said. “If people want to sit across the street, what am I supposed to do about it?”
“It’s been a real problem for us,” countered Sacramento police Sgt. Terrell Marshall. “When the bar lets out, there are a lot of disturbances. There have been assaults, complaints of reckless driving and even shots fired on the property of The Plantation restaurant,” said Marshall—all charges that Jones denies.
“There haven’t been any problems on my lot,” Jones said.
The dispute has turned into a four-month-long battle with city police, with Jones being arrested twice on what he claims are false drug charges.
Jones’ real troubles began with a harrowing car chase and murder on Boxwood Street, not far from The Plantation. It happened early in the morning on Saturday, May 13. And Sacramento police publicly laid a big part of the blame for the crime at Jones’ feet. They claimed the argument that precipitated the car chase and murder started in The Plantation and then spilled onto the streets.
Later that day, Sacramento police Sgt. David Kidd said on a Channel 13 newscast that police believed Jones’ business was a nuisance and the source of several law-enforcement headaches, that it ultimately culminated in the violence the previous night. “The city is in the process of trying to get them shut down,” Kidd explained.
“Neither one of those guys had even been in here” that evening, Jones said of the men involved in the crime. But a week later, Jones was in jail.
On May 19, Sacramento police officers accompanied an Alcoholic Beverage Control agent on a decoy operation aimed at catching a Plantation bartender in the act of selling alcohol to a minor. But the simple ABC sting quickly turned into a full-fledged raid. Marshall said police officers smelled marijuana smoke from an upstairs area of the club, giving officers cause to search the rest of the building. In an upstairs room, Marshall said, they found cocaine and marijuana in the immediate vicinity of Jones’ jacket and cell phone.
Jones said there weren’t any drugs. But on May 25, The Sacramento Bee reported that police had found 7 to 8 grams of cocaine and 20 grams of marijuana in the room. Later, however, Marshall told SN&R that the amounts were much smaller, just .87 grams of coke and .58 grams of pot.
Business at The Plantation dropped off immediately after his arrest, and it’s down about 70 percent compared with this time last year, Jones said. Several wedding receptions were canceled. One of The Plantation’s regular bands pulled out, saying in a letter to SN&R’s calendar editor that it didn’t want to be associated with the club anymore. Watching his receipts plummet, Jones was furious about the allegations and the bad press. “If you’re going to make a statement like that about a business, you better make sure you know what you’re talking about,” he said.
But no charges were filed against Jones after the May 19 arrest, though the publicity continued to damage his business. And because no charges were filed, Jones and his attorney, Martin Tejeda, have been denied access to the police report from the arrest.
“We wanted to know what the facts are in the police report, so we could dispute them,” Tejeda said.
Instead, the police and prosecutors started widening their investigation into Jones. Police got a warrant to search Jones’ house and did so on May 30. Police report finding a small amount of cocaine on a plate in Jones’ house. But they didn’t arrest Jones until June 19, and at that time police say they found a small amount of marijuana on him.
But then on August 17, the cocaine charges were thrown out by a Sacramento Superior Court judge for lack of evidence. The remaining marijuana charge is a misdemeanor, which might, at worst, cost Jones a $100 fine. He may even be able to get off with an infraction and no fine. But the arrests have cost his reputation and his business much more.
Jones thinks he’s been unfairly targeted because The Plantation sits so close to the entrance of the affluent Woodlake neighborhood. He claims to have gotten at least one call from an angry Woodlake resident vowing to see The Plantation closed down for good. And he characterized the searches and arrests as fishing expeditions by the police, looking for reasons to shut his business down. “I’ve heard lots of theories. Could be they just don’t like a lot of black people hanging out late at night making noise.”
Police spokesman Marshall said Jones brought his troubles on himself. “We’re not driving by thinking, ‘Let’s go pick on Mr. Jones.’ Whatever he’s doing in his backroom probably wouldn’t have been an issue if he’d taken some more responsibility,” Marshall said. “He’s drawing attention to himself because he’s not taking care of his bar,” Marshall added.
As for the original arrest that caused Jones so much trouble, the police and prosecutors seem to have forgotten about it, even if The Plantation’s old customers haven’t.
“There were no drugs in that room at all,” Jones said. “If there were, why am I not in jail?”