SALT LAKE CITY — Prosecutors have dropped prescription fraud charges against one of the Unified Fire Authority's assistant chiefs.
Marlon Jones, 49, was charged in May 2013 with 14 counts of obtaining a prescription under false pretenses, a third-degree felony. Prosecutors at the time alleged that he was "doctor shopping." Jones was seeing three different physicians to receive pain medications, including hydrocodone, carisoprodol and zolpidem, which he said he took three times daily, according to charges filed in 3rd District Court.
But Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Wednesday that the evidence that was presented to his office when the case first came under investigation has changed.
"The evidence that was certainly available at that time gave us a good basis to believe there was a violation," he said. "Subsequently, what we've discovered is that some of the evidence from some of the medical folks may not be as strong, and may actually be a basis for a defense."
With this support he and his family have weathered this storm with grace and dignity. Assistant Chief Jones has always followed the directions provided by his doctors. He has never sought medication that was not prescribed to him nor has he abused it any way.
–Tyler Ayers, attorney for Marlon Jones
Jones' attorney, Tyler Ayers, released a statement Wednesday that said his client had been overwhelmed with the support he had received from friends, family, other firefighters and the community.
"With this support he and his family have weathered this storm with grace and dignity," Ayers wrote. "Assistant Chief Jones has always followed the directions provided by his doctors. He has never sought medication that was not prescribed to him nor has he abused it any way."
Ayers stated Jones was appreciative of the district attorney's "full and fair" investigation into the matter, and "applauded" Gill and his staff for "changing directions midstream."
"It is clear their primary aim is the fair administration of justice," he said.
A preliminary hearing, where the state only has to present a low burden of proof, was held in May. A judge subsequently ordered Jones to stand trial on the charges and that trial was scheduled to begin Nov. 17.
But Gill said his office has an ethical obligation to continually evaluate the evidence, including statements from witnesses.
"As we continued to probe deeper into it, I think the evidence that was presented certainly justified the filing of charges. Some of that evidence has now been clarified or different than when we looked to file," he said.
In their motion to the judge to dismiss, prosecutors wrote: "The state has reviewed the case in light of testimony elicited at the preliminary hearing, and also examined additional evidence obtained since that time. On review, the state has determined that there is at this time no reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial."
The case was officially dismissed Tuesday, according to court records.
Jones is a 25-year veteran of the Unified Fire Authority. He was placed on paid leave and his access to the fire stations was suspended after the charges were filed. As of Wednesday he remained on paid leave, but Ayers said he expected that to be changed in the very near future.
Charges against Jones were filed while two police agencies were investigating missing drugs the fire department uses to treat pain, seizures and to sedate patients.