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West Virginia mayor: My son's drug arrest might save his life

Rick Lee / Office of the Mayor

Charleston, W.V., Mayor Danny Jones issued a statement saying he was "relieved" when his son was arrested on a drug charge and asked law enforcement to treat him the same as anyone else.

A West Virginia mayor issued an extraordinary statement Thursday after his son was arrested on cocaine charges, saying he was "relieved" and begging law-enforcement not to go easy on him.

"I know that the only things that might save his life are isolation and yes, incarceration," Charleston Mayor Danny Jones wrote in an email to reporters after his 23-year-old son Zachary was busted for the third time in five years.

"If in jail or prison, I know that Zac has a better chance at living than on the outside. This is because Zac is a hopeless drug addict who has broken the heart and the will of everyone and anyone who has tried to help him," the statement continued.

Jones told NBC News that it was "heartbreaking" to write those words, but he believes tough love is the only answer for his son. He said his son's mother had custody of him growing up but that he also had a close relationship with him.

Charleston, W.V., police department

Zachary Jones, son of the mayor of Charleston, W.V., was arrested Thursday on a drug charge. His father said he was relieved and thinks jail will save his life.

"I've done everything a parent could do to try and help him," he said. "He's been detoxed at least a half-dozen times and I paid to put him through rehab twice."

Charleston police confirmed that Zachary Jones was arrested for driving under the influence in 2008, pleaded guilty and was fined $100. He was arrested for heroin possession in 2011; the case was dismissed after he completed rehab and agreed to enter the military, which he failed to do, his lawyer said.

On Thursday morning, police conducting a traffic stop arrested Jones, along with a 24-year-old Detroit man, and charged both with possession of an ounce of cocaine with intent to deliver, according to the criminal complaint.

The young man is being held in the local jail in lieu of $25,000 bond.

William Forbes, an attorney who represented the son in the heroin case and was retained again Thursday, said his client told him "he loves his father and understands" why he made the statement.

“He’s a really, really nice kid with a really bad addiction problem,” Forbes said, adding that he counseled his client to stay in jail for the moment. “The mayor loves in his son very much.”

When the younger Jones was escorted by officers out of the police station, his father, the assistant mayor and the police chief stood in a line and stared at him.

"I could tell from his body language -- he hung his head and kind of shook his head -- that he was maybe embarrassed," said Police Chief Brent Webster.

Webster said the mayor had spoken to him in the past about his son's drug problem.

"He's told me, 'I don't want to get a call at two in the morning that he's been killed. I'd rather hear he's in jail," the police chief said.

The mayor said that in 2011, a friend bailed his son out of jail. He hopes that doesn't happen this time.

"I plead with those in the law-enforcement, judicial and jail and prison system to treat my son no better or worse than any other defendant," he said in his statement. "My son does not need anyone to save him from taking this life-saving fall."

The mayor, who said he has been sober for 19 years, said he hopes his statement will be a "moment of clarity" for his son and inspire other parents facing a similar situation to take action.

He said he also wanted to make it clear that he has never tried to use his position to get his son off the hook.

Asked whether some people might find his comments harsh, he said, "I don't care. Anybody who thinks it's really harsh hasn't dealt with this on a personal basis."

"I think the only place that's safe for him is jail, and I'm sorry to say it," he added.