Probation officials, sources say, knew Rafael Jones failed house arrest conditions before they let him out

This undated photo provided by the Philadelphia Police Department on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 shows Rafael Jones. Police say they've charged the 23-year-old Jones with murder and robbery in the death of Officer Moses Walker Jr. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Police Department)
This undated photo provided by the Philadelphia Police Department on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 shows Rafael Jones. Police say they've charged the 23-year-old Jones with murder and robbery in the death of Officer Moses Walker Jr. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Police Department)
Posted: August 30, 2012

Pennsylvania probation officials, aware that Rafael Jones had failed to meet the conditions of his house arrest as ordered by a Philadelphia judge, permitted him to walk out of their offices three days before he allegedly killed Police Officer Moses Walker Jr., law enforcement sources said Tuesday.

On Aug. 10, two days after Jones was released from prison - with strict instructions from a judge that he be arrested if he failed a drug test - Jones checked in with a parole officer and tested positive for marijuana, documents obtained by The Inquirer show.

Jones told the parole officer that he had smoked pot in jail before his release, according to a Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole "History of Supervision" report. Jones was allowed to go and was told to report back the following week.

Jones returned to report on Aug. 15, documents show. Three law enforcement sources said Jones' parole officer, Jose Rodriguez, detailed for them how he had asked his supervisors that day for a warrant to detain Jones on the basis of the positive drug test.

According to the sources, Rodriguez maintained that his supervisors denied the warrant. One source said a text message to Rodriguez from a supervisor advised him that Jones' failed drug test should be addressed the following week.

Rodriguez's supervisors, Rosa Hernandez and Michelle Rivera, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday. Rodriguez could not be reached for comment.

It's unclear if Rodriguez notified his supervisors about the order by Common Pleas Court Judge Susan I. Schulman, but sources said supervisors typically review a file as part of the warrant process. Additionally, the sources said, according to normal procedure, Jones would have been handcuffed and detained while the request for the warrant was reviewed.

If Jones had been arrested Aug. 15, he would have been transported to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility within hours, the sources said. There, he would have awaited a new hearing in front of Schulman, which might have taken several weeks to schedule.

Instead, police have said, Jones stalked and killed Walker, 40, before dawn Aug. 18 as the officer walked to a bus stop after finishing his overnight shift in North Philadelphia. Walker was in street clothes when he was confronted by two men who announced a robbery, police said, then shot him.

Jones was charged in Walker's death Friday, days after police tracked him to a public-housing complex in Southwest Philadelphia. Jones' alleged accomplice in the robbery, 19-year-old Chancier McFarland, surrendered Sunday to authorities in Alabama. On Tuesday, McFarland was back in Philadelphia, where he was charged with murder and other offenses.

Walker, a 19-year veteran of the force, was laid to rest Monday in a funeral that drew hundreds.

The case has sparked criticism of the Board of Probation and Parole, which allowed Jones to leave prison and go without a required electronic ankle bracelet for more than two weeks.

The board repeatedly declined to comment for this story, but last week it said it was reviewing its policies on monitoring probation offenders. In that statement, Board Chairman Michael C. Potteiger said Jones was allowed to go without the monitor because there was no telephone line in the home he had been approved to live in, as is needed for electronic monitoring to function. He also said prisoners released to house arrest are not always monitored electronically from the moment they get out of jail.

Gov. Corbett's office also declined to comment.

This week, several sources said the flaws in the electronic monitoring program were a distraction from the clear opportunities the board had to put Jones back behind bars.

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (D., Phila.) on Tuesday called on Corbett's office to lead an investigation into what he described as "missed opportunities" to stop Jones.

"The facts that keep coming out only make this worse," he said. "There are a lot of people in Harrisburg who are angry about this. It is very obvious that this person should not have been allowed on the street."

Jones' criminal record goes back more than 10 years, when he was charged with throwing a rock through his mother's front door. He was arrested at 15 for selling drugs, then caught in a stolen Jeep. His first gun arrest came when he was 17, when officers said they caught him with a loaded .38-caliber revolver, and he later served four years in prison on a gun charge.

In February, about four months after Jones was released from prison and while he was on probation, he was charged with robbing a man at gunpoint in Germantown. But the case collapsed when the victim, a 26-year-old man with a history of drug arrests, failed to appear several times to testify.

There was nothing prosecutors could use to hold Jones in prison. In a July 25 hearing on his probation violation, Schulman ordered him released on house arrest and said she would show no leniency, particularly when it came to his weekly drug tests.

"There will be no positives, Mr. Jones," Schulman said then, according to a transcript of the hearing. "One positive, Agent Rodriguez, you drop the detainer."

"With your record," Schulman told Jones, "you cannot afford to think that you still make the rules. You do not. I do. Agent Rodriguez does. . . . So, unless you enjoy spending your years behind bars, it's time to get it together."

Jones was released Aug. 8, unmonitored, instructed only to report to his state probation officer. He reported, but did not get monitoring because of the wait for installation of a phone line.

L. George Parry, a Center City defense lawyer and former prosecutor, said he had never heard of an offender being allowed to go without monitoring for a period of time. "You just have to shake your head at the idiocy," he said. "What would be the harm in holding him in jail until it was set up?. . . . I'd like to know how many other people were released under similar circumstances."

Retired judge Gene Cohen, who served on Common Pleas Court for 17 years, said the Board of Probation and Parole should consider initiating an outside investigation to determine if and where a breakdown occurred in the handling of Jones' case.

"Everybody's asking for that," he said. "I think the facts of his detention and release should be put on the table and examined. Someone has to do something."

Correction: This story was updated to correct the first name of probation officer Jose Rodriguez.


Contact Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.

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