Local News

Head of Avon Park outreach group tries to move forward from criminal past

Clarification: This Jan. 31 Highlands Today article reported that Frank Paul Jones was charged with stalking pop singer Janet Jackson. That charge was eventually dropped. Mr. Jones pleaded guilty to mailing a threatening communication concerning Ms. Jackson’s boyfriend.
AVON PARK - The founder of an Avon Park community activism organization who was at one time charged with stalking pop singer Janet Jackson and who sent death threats to former President George H.W. Bush said he is working hard to move on to better himself, the community and leave the past behind.
Frank Paul Jones is the founder and president of The National Community Network and Coalition of Highlands Inc., a non-profit outreach group housed in a two-story former social hall at 923 South A St., There, Jones and members are volunteering time to do all they can to help prevent crime and criminal recidivism by creating activities for the community to become involved with, including recreational pastimes, sound and music recording, making videos and getting involved in other hobbies.
The group's activities, said Jones, are being done to help move the city's low-income southside into economic prosperity and growth. In the process, it's a undertaking of personal growth and moving forward from a past he said was built on formerly delusional present.
According to a 1992 Associated Press story, Jones was arrested June 22 that year and held on $15,000 bail in a Los Angeles jail for investigation of trespassing in the driveway of the Jackson family compound in Encino, Calif. "The following year, he was sentenced to two years in prison for 'mailing a threatening communication,' according to a 1993 press report included in a 200-page FBI file documenting the death of Michael Jackson.
The files also included death threats against Jackson, then-President George H.W. Bush while living in New York City in 1991 and mob boss John Gotti that led to the 1993 sentencing of Jones, who "allegedly was obsessed with Janet Jackson, Michael's sister. Jones said he considered New York City's Gambino crime family part of his own, called himself "Frank Paul Gambino" and Janet Jackson was "the prize."
A July 23, 1992, report in the Los Angeles Times, while Jones was staying in L.A. from New York City, federal authorities filed charges against him saying he stalked Janet Jackson and "claimed to be her husband and threatened to kill her live-in boyfriend." When he was arrested June 22 by a security guard he allegedly made threats in the driveway of the Jackson home. The Associated Press report stated he was taken into custody and "charged with seven misdemeanors, including trespassing, making terrorist threats and stalking the (then) 26-year-old singer."
By Oct. 13, 1992, a federal judge ruled Jones was "mentally unfit to stand trial," the Times stated. The following day, the Times reported a district court judge ordered Jones be sent to a federal Bureau of Prisons mental hospital.
In a blog posted by the Coalition's director of arts and repertoire, NaQuila Hardy, on June 23, 2011, wrote: "He says he is no longer interested in the Jackson Family and found love with NaQuila. His mission in life now is to do community work and try to help people. He feels this is a 180 degree turn for him as for most of his life he hated God...He feels like he is God's prodigal Son, He will come in the name the Apostle Paul."
Hardy stated and Jones confirmed after threatening the president, he was released from custody after a 16-day stay at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Speaking by phone Thursday, Jones, 54, who said he served in the U.S. Army from 1981 to 1987 and worked for the New York Transit Authority, attributed his past trouble to delusional behavior. He said he also spent three months in the Federal Correctional Complex, Butner, N.C. in 1993. Although he was born in New York, he stated his parents, Frank and Blonde Austin, were from Avon Park and he wants to "move forward" and make Avon Park and surrounding areas better for all.
"I can't change who I am, because I am who am, but I want to better my future. This was all because of a mental breakdown. If I was as crazy as they said I was, they would have thrown away the key; they sent me home after 11 days," he said.
In an article Jones wrote Jan. 18, 2011, for the website "CNN iReport," he stated "Frank Paul Jones aka Frank Paul Gambino feels that these recent developments and interrogations into his medical records and personal life is not the work of the Obama Administration or Eric Holder the Attorney General or even the FBU at this point. This is not the work of the Secret Service. This is the work of Hillbillies and interlopers trying to make a name for them."
Members of the Network said Jones is forthcoming and driven to make positive changes in the community,
Alphonso Williams, Network director of human resources, has been involved with the organization for six months. He said Jones approached him about volunteering his time, he agreed to, knows about past run-ins with law and that Jones' past doesn't overshadow his present. He said Jones sometimes has a propensity to jump into agendas and "he needs to think over his thoughts before he orders them out" and would like to see the Network foster interactive projects with other service organizations.
"If that person has paid his debt, don't bring it up," he said. "I think he's doing a great job. He just needs to know how to tone certain things down. We need to let everyone know we stand up for what's right and fairness. If they aren't a worthwhile, honest project, I will have no part of it."
As for the future of the Community Network and his life in Avon Park, Jones said he hoped to make a positive difference and his current efforts wouldn't be based on past deeds. He said although recollections of what he had done "came all at one time," he can't alter what has already happened.
"I'm going forward; I can't change what I think. I'm not going to tell you I don't believe what I'm saying because I do believe them. My diagnosis is my diagnosis, I'm not focused on that," he said. "With the (Community Network) we are now planning a new agenda. We are very excited and once again enthusiasm has resurfaced into our organization," he said.
Plans in the works for the Network include beginning "soup kitchen meals," publishing a non-profit newspaper, establishing a bi-weekly bill payment program and expanding the facility into homeless shelters and single-room occupancies for the homeless population of Highlands County.
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