Cons for Kids: Putting the crime back into anti-crime

When the feds announced last year they were dropping $2.5 million to clean up Hough and St. Clair-Superior, residents in those neighborhoods were juiced. After all, this was more than just extra cops to battle their gang problems. It was badly needed cash for programs – athletics, especially. But this being Cleveland, things don’t always turn out the way they were designed. Take the case of James Poon, until recently a trainer at Old School Boxing, a gym funded in part by those federal grants. On Valentine’s Day Poon, an ex-con himself, got into an argument with a boxer there. Rather than set the good example by simply diffusing the situation, Poon used a two-foot-long metal pipe to get his point across. He bashed the boxer’s head with the pipe, knocking him down. Poon then sat on him, punching and choking the guy with the pipe. His trial on two counts of felonious assault starts today. Poon, apparently, has a legacy of good role modelocity. Another trainer says Poon once tried to stab a kid with a pocket knife. “I would have beat his ass,” says the guy. “That’s not what we do.” It’s not the first time that Old School has opened its doors to morons. Another former trainer, Wilson Smith, was arrested in 2001 after trying to sell $800 worth of PCP to a police informant. Prior to that he did time for robbery, rape and murder. So what kind of anti-crime program gives hardened cons access to kids? Lawyer Joseph Delguyd runs Old School. He doesn’t condone what Poon and Smith have done, but won’t accept that a rap sheet is the prerequisite for everyone who uses his gym. “This [Poon] is an isolated incident,” says Delguyd. “We’re no different than the guys who coach Little League.” – Jason Nedley