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Vernon Jones' run for Congress clouded by rape allegation

"She never recanted," but alleged victim dropped the charge out of fear.

DECATUR, Ga. — A candidate for congress in Georgia continues to face questions about a 17 year old rape allegation. 

Democrat turned Republican Vernon Jones has the endorsement of Donald Trump as he seeks votes in Georgia’s 10th congressional district, and is mostly disregarding questions about the incident.

But some of his GOP opponents in this month's primary have raised the issue. One of them, Mike Collins, has produced a website devoted to the allegation and other behavioral issues Jones has faced.

The rape case against Jones never went to a grand jury and never got adjudicated because the alleged victim was scared to death of Jones, according to a confidant. She dropped the charge months after filing the complaint.

"You can do whatever you’re going to do. I’m still going to support Donald Trump. I’m still going to think for myself. I’m still going to represent my district," Jones told 11Alive News when asked about the rape allegation.

In 2005, a GBI report outlined the facts of the case—with a lengthy statement from the alleged victim.

On Jan. 2, 2005, a 29-year-old woman showed up at a Rockdale County hospital. She told doctors she was raped five days earlier. She said the attacker was Vernon Jones – whom she had met at a DeKalb County board of commissioners meeting.

"She had introduced herself to him in hopes of getting a job," said Antje Kingma, who had been a sex crimes prosecutor and a confidant of the alleged victim.  "It was a horrific story."

At the time, Jones was the CEO of DeKalb County government – the most powerful officeholder in what was then Georgia’s second largest county.

The report says Jones invited the woman to his home to roast marshmallows. And she went, hoping to get a job. 

"She thought he might actually be interested in helping her," Kingma said in a recent interview.

Another woman was at Jones residence. The report says after the other woman left, Jones forced the alleged victim to have sex with him– that the woman “pushed him away saying no I told you I don’t want this,” according to her statement in the GBI report. 

Following the alleged attack, the woman said they parted company, with Jones “stating how sorry he was and please don’t hurt him.”

Kingma said the woman made no promise.  "And when she wouldn’t say I won’t tell (about the rape), he got angry and aggressive and started bullying her. And telling her, 'I know where you live. I will find you,'" Kingma said.

The story became public. The DA and GBI investigated. Then-DeKalb County police chief Louis Graham, a Jones appointee, released copies of the incident report to reporters that included information identifying the victim.  

But the woman never spoke publicly.

"She was terrified of the police chief. She was terrified of Vernon Jones," Kingma added.

Weeks later, the woman told GBI investigators “I don’t want to be the one who silently sits back and lets it go. But I don’t know if I’m strong enough” to take the case to trial.

At the time, Jones’s attorney Dwight Thomas told reporters Jones had engaged in a consensual three-way sexual encounter with the alleged victim and the other woman at Jones's home that night. 

Kingma acknowledged the case would have been difficult to prove in court; to do so would have required the woman's public testimony. Months later, the alleged victim wrote a note saying she would drop the case against Jones because of the media attention, and because Graham had released her private information. He died in 2010.

"She never recanted. Never," Kingma said.

Jones was at the state capitol in March 2022 to qualify to run for congress in Georgia's 10th district. For months, he waged an uphill campaign for governor. He exited that race and switched to the congressional race after Trump promised to endorse him.

When 11Alive approached him about it, Jones responded with a series of insults. He eventually compared it to assault allegations against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the sexual harassment allegation against now-justice Clarence Thomas, and Trump’s own boast about sexually aggressive contact with women.

"What you're trying to do, like you liberals, you’re trying to do what you did to Kavanaugh. You’re trying to do to me what you did to Donald Trump, and what you liberals did to Clarence Thomas. This is the whole playbook by liberals, to come after Black people to come after individuals with that type of tactic," Jones said.

Trump became president; Kavanaugh and Thomas now sit on the Supreme Court. Now, Jones is betting voters in the conservative 10th district will likewise look beyond a troubling allegation from his past.