Posted: 12:17 pm Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Jones back to football 4 months after arrest 

By Jason Lieser

Former Palm Beach Gardens running back James Jones, who was arrested with two others in connection with an armed robbery in April, is expected to play for Inlet Grove this week against Palm Beach Central.

Hurricanes coach Kevin McLeod said Jones is in his first week of practicing with pads and should come off the bench at running back and slot receiver.

“Whatever took place is in his past, and hopefully it stays in his past,” McLeod said. “He made a poor decision.”

McLeod believes Jones, a senior, has a better chance of redirecting his life as part of the team than he would if he was shunned from football.

“The most important thing for him is … becoming a man,” McLeod said. “Culture determines a person’s attitude, and we have a good atmosphere here for him to prepare for the next stage of life.

“Sometimes a young man needs to be given responsibility to help him mature.”

Jones is 5-11, 195 pounds and rushed for 717 yards as a member of the Gators in 2007. He was given honorable mention for the Post‘s all-area team. Last spring, he transferred to Dwyer, where he was expected to play a big role in the 2008 season.

Jones was supposed to run the first leg of the 400-meter relay for Dwyer in the Class 3A state track meet last spring, but he was dismissed from the team after his arrest.

Also arrested in the incident were Joshua Sheppard, who shared the Gators’ backfield with Jones, and Johnie Larkins. Sheppard attends Palm Beach Gardens, but is not on the football team anymore.

The three were accused of using a stolen 9mm handgun to steal a woman’s purse and a man’s wallet as the couple left Sushi Joe’s on PGA Boulevard.

Larkins and Sheppard were detained by police. Jones, allegedly the getaway driver, escaped police officers in a high-speed chase that went into Riviera Beach. Prior to his arrest, Jones told the Post he was the driver, but said “I had nothing to do with it, so I’m not worried about it.”

Later, on the advice of Dwyer officials, Jones turned himself into the police, athletic director Rick Hubbard told the Post in April.

Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said he was glad Jones got a second chance and hopes he can use it to get into college football. Palm Beach Gardens coach Kevin Fleury did not return phone messages seeking comment. Phone messages left for legal representatives of each of the three individuals were not immediately returned.

According to the State Attorney’s Office, all three individuals face two counts each of robbery with a firearm. Additionally, Jones is charged with fleeing and looting. The other two individuals face charges of resisting an officer without violence.

The case is pending discovery, with the next hearing scheduled for Oct. 20.