Jacksonville Man Accused of Sunday Arson Charged with Theft, Denied Bail

By Jeremy Coumbes on December 5, 2023 at 10:02pm

A Jacksonville man accused of setting fire to a Church Street garage this past weekend appeared in Morgan County Court Tuesday afternoon.

At approximately 6:30 am this past Sunday, the Jacksonville Fire Department responded to a police report of a garage that was involved with fire at the rear of a lot located at 606 North Church Street.

According to a Jacksonville Police Department press release Sunday, an officer smelled something burning outside of the police station, and officers immediately canvassed the area and discovered the garage fully involved with fire.

39-year-old Dustin J. Jones of the 300 block of West Lafayette Avenue was arrested Sunday afternoon as a purported suspect in the blaze. The fire was deemed suspicious by the Jacksonville Fire Department and Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Jones appeared in Morgan County Circuit Court this afternoon for a detention hearing after he was charged by the Morgan County States Attorney’s Office on Sunday with Class 2 Felony arson.

Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll says on Monday his office filed a petition to detain Jones in the Morgan County Jail in accordance with the recently enacted Pretrial Fairness Act.

Noll says Circuit Judge Chris Reif agreed with the state during Tuesday’s hearing that Jones posed a danger to at least the community at large, if not to a specific person as well, and granted the petition to detain Jones. He says Jones had also been charged with another criminal information related to the case this morning.

the defendant is currently being held in the custody of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department without bond, at least until his next court date and perhaps further than that as well.

Along with that, he has been charged with a felony theft offense involving the same victim but a different occurrence, and that also had a first appearance today. Ultimately both of these cases are set for a preliminary hearing on December 19th.”

Jones is also being charged with theft with a prior conviction. According to charging documents, on November 7th of this year, Jones allegedly took possession of a trail camera valued in excess of $500.00. The charging documents indicate the owner of the camera is also the owner of the garage that burned on Sunday. The documents did not divulge where the camera was reportedly taken from.

In his argument during the hearing this afternoon, Morgan County Public Defender Devin Vaughn suggested Jones be released from the jail on home confinement and electronic monitoring pending his next appearance in court.

Noll says the court also denied the defense’s motion due to specifics in the Safe-T-Act. “The Pretrial Fairness Act now states that in order for an individual to be held pretrial, not only does the state have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that they are a danger to the community, but also that no less restrictive measure exists that would protect the community or an individual person. So often times defense attorneys will request either home confinement or electronic monitoring of some sort.

In this particular case and the facts as set forth in the hearing would indicate that the defendant lives in very close proximity to the building that was damaged, and the judge felt that electronic monitoring nor home confinement would necessarily prevent this type of activity going forward.”

If convicted on the arson charge, Jones faces a possible three to seven years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, up to one year of mandatory supervised release, a possible four years probation, and a fine with a maximum of up to $25,000.

If convicted of the theft with a prior conviction charge, he faces a possible one to three years in prison up to six months mandatory supervised release, and two and a half years probation, along with a maximum fine of $25,000.

Jones is due in court for a preliminary hearing on December 19th.