Jim Jones arraigned in NYC suspended-license case

JENNIFER PELTZ - Associated Press
FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2008 file photo, rapper Jim Jones performs at the 2008 VH1 Hip Hop Honors show in New York.  The hip-hop artist was arraigned Tuesday, April 26, 2011 on a charge of driving with a suspended license. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, file)
FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2008 file photo, rapper Jim Jones performs at the 2008 VH1 Hip Hop Honors show in New York. The hip-hop artist was arraigned Tuesday, April 26, 2011 on a charge of driving with a suspended license.

Rapper Jim Jones has made a return to a venue he'd rather avoid: a New York City courthouse.

"I'm trying to stay out of this place!" the hip-hop artist said with a smile as he left court after his arraignment Tuesday on charges of driving with a suspended license. In 2009, he pleaded guilty in the same courthouse to a misdemeanor assault charge for a punching a friend of R&B star Ne-Yo in a Louis Vuitton store.

Jones, who had one of the top-selling rap songs of 2007 with "We Fly High," was pulled over while driving a Bentley around noon March 30. Police found his license had been suspended over an unpaid ticket, according to a court document.

He told police he was en route to a video shoot and had a license, prosecutors said Tuesday. His lawyer, Marianne E. Bertuna, said the rapper believed his license was in good standing.

He's free without bail and due back in court in June. The top charge against him is a misdemeanor; he didn't enter a plea.

If Jones rued his return to court, he was good-natured about it with fans who stopped him for autographs and pictures on his way out of the building. He was, he said, "off to work."

Born Joseph Jones, he's one of the Diplomats, a Harlem-based rap crew that also counts Cam'ron, Juelz Santana and Freekey Zekey among its members. Besides "We Fly High," his hits include "Pop Champagne."

His latest album, "Capo," was released this month. Outside music, Jones, 34, appears on the VH1 reality show "Love & Hip Hop," has a T-shirt line and starred in 2009's "Hip-Hop Monologues: Inside the Life and Mind of Jim Jones," a play that chronicled his life on the road and on the streets.

He also has some business in a New York civil court, where two Texas women sued him in February, saying they turned up topless in his recent "Summer Time" video without their permission. Their lawyer says they initially didn't realize they were being recorded on a hotel's beach in Miami Beach, Fla., and covered up when they did. Jones' camp hasn't yet filed a response.

In the boutique assault case, he was sentenced to time served — the few hours he was in custody after turning himself in to police.