Trial delayed while accused drunken driver seeks new attorney

Ottawa County assistant public defender Ryan Seale, left, was granted approval to withdraw as attorney for Hank William Jones, right, during a hearing Monday in Ottawa County Circuit Court. Jones said he wants to defend himself.

A man facing life in prison for a drunken driving chase that ended with him smashing into a house on Grand Haven’s east side had his trial adjourned so that he could find a new attorney.

The trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday on charges of third-offense drunken driving, fleeing and eluding, and habitual offender.

Hank William Jones, 69, formerly of Muskegon Heights, has been in jail since a March 22 incident in which he led Grand Haven police on a high-speed chase across the city before losing control of his car and crashing it into a house.

A Grand Haven Department of Public Safety officer had pulled Jones over on Third Street on Harbor Island after a group of young people taking pictures told the patrolling officer that the man had stopped and was staring at them, as well as following them around in his car. During questioning, the officer smelled marijuana in Jones’ car and was continuing questioning when Jones drove off.

Police tried to block Jones’ car in a parking area on Harbor Island, but Jones was able to get around them and fled onto Jackson Street, where he proceeded across U.S. 31. Police stopped the pursuit when Jones entered a residential area and continued south on Griffin Street with a speed approaching an estimated 70 mph.

As the car approached Washington Avenue, Jones lost control of it and it went off the road, rolled over and crashed into a home’s enclosed porch. Only moments earlier, the residents said they had been on the porch.

A crowd gathered as emergency crews worked more than an hour to extricate Jones from his overturned car. He was taken to a local hospital and later to the Ottawa County Jail, where he has remained on a $75,000 bond.

Jones asked to have the bond reduced, but Judge Karen Miedema denied the request based on the man’s criminal history and the seriousness of the most recent incident.

Monday’s hearing in Ottawa County Circuit Court was to consider a request by county public defender Ryan Seale to withdraw from the case. He was doing so at Jones’ request.

When Jones told the judge that he planned to represent himself, Miedema advised him of his rights to an attorney and the risks of self-representation. She also told him the court would not give him any favors.

“You will not receive any special treatment,” the judge said.

Jones hesitated and said he thought that he would get some help since he is not trained as a lawyer. He then asked for time to raise money to hire an attorney, and the judge granted him 2-3 weeks.

“I’m the best one to handle this – I believe I am,” Jones said.

He added that if he can’t hire a Grand Rapids law firm that he is considering, he would ask for another attorney.

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