Cornell Jones Fights Back Against D.C.
Being accused of being an HIV/AIDS profiteer, of sorts, would make some flinch. But Cornell Jones has struck back. You think he stole $300,000 from the city? Well, now he wants $2 million from it.
Last week, the District filed a civil suit accusing Jones, a legendary D.C. gangster who "went straight" and now runs Miracle Hands Inc.—a nonprofit that purports to serve the "city's most underprivileged and neglected communities," according to its website—of renovating a strip club with $300,000 in District HIV/AIDS funds.
Jones, in turn, filed his own lawsuit in federal court yesterday, accusing the city of discriminating against him and his organization for being black—and also of defamation.
The defamation part of the suit takes issue with a press release sent out on Aug. 30 announcing that the city was taking Jones and his non-profit to court. "Miracle Hands, Inc., and its executive director, Cornell Jones, improperly diverted from the District’s HIV/AIDS program," it said.
In the $1 million suit against Jones and Miracle Hands, D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan says that starting in 2006, Miracle Hands received city money to open a job training center for residents with HIV/AIDS in a warehouse at 2127 Queens Chapel Road NE. Instead, in 2010, the warehouse became a place for guys to stare at boobs, when glitzy strip joint Stadium Club opened there.
But Jones' lawsuit, filed by Maryland-based lawyer Jimmy Bell, claims there's no there there. His name has been dragged through the dirt by bigots.
According to court papers, though Miracle Hands used HIV/AIDS funds to retain an architect who drew up plans for renovating the warehouse Jones eventually sold to the owners of Stadium Club, there wasn't any actual construction, since plans for the project moved to another warehouse before that could happen. The suit says all renovations were done at 2145 Queens Chapel Road NE, a spot that was selected after Miracle Hands realized rehabbing 2127 would be too expensive. It also says that the city got its classes: Miracle Hands hired teachers to run job training courses at 2127 while 2145 was being fixed up.
By 2008, the suit implies, those classes were derailed by racism. Miracle Hands was promised some $500,000 in funding to get their center up and running, but the organization was stiffed when the city rerouted the money to non-blacks.
"From March 2007 – March 2008 the Defendant refused to provide the Plaintiff Miracle Hands the agreed upon funds to finish the rehabilitation at 2145," says the suit. "The Plaintiff’s representatives met with representatives of the Defendant to no avail. The Plaintiff’s representatives were informed that the money was now going to another organization whose founders and people ran the organization was outside of the Plaintiff’s protected class. They were not African American."
Nathan's office didn't respond to a request for comment
If Miracle Hands provided the services it was supposed to, that should be easy enough to prove. The claim that they've been victims of discrimination, though, would seem thin, since the Miracle Hands saga played out under two black mayors. That said, a National Institutes of Health study released in August revealed that black scientists weren't getting their due despite the organization taking pains to avoid discrimination, meaning race bias can be a fickle and complex force.
In any event, if Jones hopes to gain support for his side of the story, he'll want to keep his own offensive biases in check. As The Washington Times reported, angry about the city's allegations, during a radio program, Jones referred to two openly gay District politicians as “a couple of gay guys who sometimes get to acting like little faggots.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery