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Testifying for Jim: victim to address court on Marsy’s Law allegation

Jim Jones

By Joe Johnson

Susan Wilson is scheduled to be in court Monday to speak in support of her complaint that District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez violated state law.

Wilson alleges in the complaint that she had not known that the DA would be agreeing to probation for the offender who took away the love of her life.

If she had, Wilson would have registered her objection to the plea bargain that the DA made with the alleged drunk driver who 20 months ago struck and killed James Vivean Jones Jr.

After the suspect was indicted, Wilson made a request with Gonzalez's office to be notified of all future court proceedings in accordance with the Georgia Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights and Marsy’s Law, which gave Wilson the right to be at scheduled court proceedings, have prompt notification of any proceedings for a “meaningful opportunity” to exercise her rights, and be allowed to express her opinion on the case’s final outcomeexpress her opinion on the case’s final outcome.

But in her court filing Wilson alleges that she was not notified in September when the DA's office made the plea bargain with the person who killed her longtime partner.

On Monday Wilson plans to be in Suprior Court to tell a judge what she would have told Gonzalez before the DA made the deal with the killer if been given the chance.

Gonzalez could have learned from Wilson about how more than 30 years ago Wilson fell in love with Jim Jones, a Tennesseean who had moved to Athens in the late 1970s to pursue a degree in geology at the University of Georgia;

Jim Jones and Susan Wilson

About how after a year of study Jones moved to Blacksburg, VA, where his interest in bicycles led him to work for John Dixon, with whom he honed his mechanic's skills and learned how to build and paint bicycle frames and build wheels.

Wilson could have told the DA about how around that time Jones discovered spelunking and after partnering with Don Davidson, he became part of a team that would become legend in caving, a career that culminated in participating in a 1987 expedition to Oman to map a cave system for the government's hydrology office.

Then, after some time in Virginia Jones returned to Athens and began working for John Dixon's brother Gene, at what was then Dixon's Bicycles, now Georgia Cyclesport.

Here in town Jones quickly became known in the cycling community for his mechanical skills, Wilson could have told the DA, and how he later moved on to other jobs in Athens, returning to UGA to complete his Bachelor's degree, this time in Comparative Literature with a Certificate in Medieval Studies.

From Wilson the DA could have learned about how Jones continued to cycle for exercise, recreation, and commuting, and had recently become interested in gravel bikes and bicycle camping, with plans to ride the Continental Divide Trail.

Then, late on the night of March 3, 2022 he was riding home from his job as a security guard when he was struck by a car and killed.

But Jones was not just another statistic among the traffic casualties in Athens-Clarke County, and Wilson is here to remind folks about how he was a man of huge intelligence, deep and wide-ranging thought, and had a voracious hunger for knowledge.

Jones had a wide range of hobbies and interests that included reading, early aviation and the planes of World War I, car and motorcycle restoration, computers, rock and ice climbing, whitewater kayaking, martial arts, shooting, archery, sewing, and participating in groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Athens-area group that honored him posthumously for his contributions.

When killed, 67-year -old Jones was riding his bicycle to his home on Vaughn Road after finishing work as a security guard for a local business.

While on Tallassee Road, he was struck from behind by a car driven by 26-year-old Luke Harrison Waldrop of South Carolina.

Jones died from his injuries and Athens-Clarke County police charged Waldrop with felony first-degree homicide by vehicle, DUI, and failure to provide clearance while passing a bicycle.

Then in September, and as part of a negotiated agreement with the district attorney's office, Waldrop on pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular homicide and improper passing and was sentenced to probation with an order to complete a defensive driving course.

Wilson said she was flabbergasted over the outcome of the case because she had not been given advance notice about an impending plea deal.

Despite some reluctance Wilson last month filled a civil action against Gonzalez alleging that the DA had violated the law.

"I was initially torn about pursuing a Marsy's Law violation because I worried that it could be viewed as my turning against a very public member of a community I worked with and for for many years," Wilson said.

Wilson even voted for Gonzalez when she ran for district attorney because, like others in the Latinx community, Wilson saw her as proof that someone from that community "could be successful in what often seemed like a white men's club and at the same time be a force for positive change and for justice for all Georgians."

"However, the plea agreement in Jim's violent death at the hands of a man who police accused of intoxication and reckless driving was not justice." Wilson said. "I am deeply upset that I was not notified or consulted about the plea before it was presented to a judge even though, as Jim's partner of decades, I had asked to be kept informed, and they knew how to reach me."

She added, "Admittedly, someone from the office did finally call me and his sister about the plea, but they called after a year of silence - the morning of the meeting with the presiding judge - while I was working and unable to answer the phone, and his sister was at her home in Virginia, nine hours away. "Neither of us had any more chance to speak to the judge or otherwise make our concerns known than Jim did to take evasive action before an allegedly intoxicated driver hit him from behind.

In conclusion Wilson said, "What do I want from the hearing? I want Jim's side of this story to be heard and for everyone to understand the potential implications for the cycling community if drivers who kill cyclists don't face serious consequences."

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G 300d
G 300d
Nov 05, 2023

This is a strange story. What I got out of it was that she was offended by the justice dwelt when she had voted for the DA in the first place. It seems strange to vote for a person and then not like her policies when a crime is committed and a plea deal is offered. I think this is normal for the way the Athens area has developed, but not if it happens to someone you personally care about, eh?


Paul Bunce
Paul Bunce
Nov 05, 2023

There's an election coming very soon.

It's possible that the police didn't do much because they're tired of submitting evidence to a DA who refuses to prosecute. That's still not a valid excuse, but may be an explanation.


Izzy Mendalbaum
Izzy Mendalbaum
Nov 05, 2023

No winners here. Only losers. The punishment should have been harsher considering the DUI, but who am I to judge? The Marsey's Law stuff makes the story even worse.

Nov 05, 2023
Replying to

As sad as this situation is in fortunately this wasn't on the D.A, law enforcement dropped the ball with their sloppy handling of evidence. Im not sure how you charge a person for a DUI w/o proof of their bac and he stayed on scene he didn't flee. They didn't do a breathalyzer, urine or blood sample so legal aid could've got him off on those charges when officers fail so badly to do their job. I'm not sure if the Marsy's Law violation will stick because now this falls under a tragic accident not a crime, the bill was created for victims of DV, crimes of that nature and their families rights. I hope she's able to be heard…

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