A Clifton man serving a 4.5-year prison sentence for weapons misconduct by prohibited possessor was convicted last year on the basis of sufficient evidence, according to a decision issued by the Arizona Court of Appeals last week.
Jonathan Duane Owens Jr. was arrested in June 2019 after his ex-girlfriend notified police he was in possession of several guns and ammunition. He was prohibited from possessing firearms and ammo due to a 2018 aggravated DUI conviction out of the Greenlee County Superior Court for which he was on probation.
Court records show Owens, 46, gave his guns and ammo to the ex-girlfriend, who was the mother of his children. The ex-girlfriend later told a Clifton police officer that Owens demanded she take the guns to Owens’ home.
The officer in turn contacted the probation office. A search turned up the items in Owens’ home, after which he was charged with felony misconduct involving weapons by knowingly possessing a deadly weapon or prohibited weapon if that person is a prohibited possessor.
Among those considered a prohibited possessor are convicted felons who have not had their rights restored by a judge.
Jurors heard evidence of text messages Owens sent to the ex-girlfriend demanding she bring the guns to his home. Other evidence included a message he sent to her with his probation officer’s phone number so she could “confess” to taking the guns to Owens’ home without his knowledge.
While testifying in his own defense, Owens claimed the text messages were taken out of context, and that he never intended for his ex-girlfriend to actually bring him the guns. He testified the text messages were intended to get the woman to stop selling his guns, but instead she used the messages to engage in “a setup,” Owens said.
The jury rejected Owens’ defense of a setup and returned a guilty verdict. Judge Monica Stauffer imposed a prison term which keeps Owens in prison until October 2023.
On appeal, Owens argued the jury did not have sufficient evidence to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt. He also contended the prosecutorial error deprived him of a fair trial and that his sentence was illegally enhanced.
The April 30 appellate decision authored by Judge Philip Espinosa affirmed Owens’ conviction and sentence, noting the state’s evidence “was more than sufficient to support Owens’s conviction on the weapons charge.” The decision also found no fault with the prosecutor’s cross-examination of Owens about inconsistencies between his testimony and that of other witnesses.
“While the questioning may have at points been objectionably argumentative, we see no indication that pointed exchanges between the prosecutor and Owens ‘permeated the entire atmosphere of the trial’ or denied him a fair trial,” Espinosa wrote in the decision. “We see no actionable prosecutorial error on this basis, cumulative or otherwise.”
The court of appeals’ decision upheld the jury’s verdict and the sentence imposed by Stauffer.
For now, Owens is assigned to the Arizona State Prison Complex in Kingman. Once released he will begin serving a three-year term of probation for his 2018 conviction of aggravated DUI with a child in the vehicle.