BY: Harold Michael Harvey
Rapping to his favorite girl or just another girl he wants to get next to, the self made hip hop mogul, “T. I.”-by any other name-Clifford Joseph Harris, raps she can have anything she likes: “stacks on deck, Patron on ice, you can have anything you like,” he intones to a smooth hip hop beat.
For the next year and one day, Clifford “T. I.” Harris can have anything the federal prison guards will allow him to have. One presumes that will not be unlimited stacks on the prison books for him to buy anything he likes; nor do we expect he will be able to keep any Patron on ice during visitation days.
In his early days trouble seemed to follow Clifford “T. I.” Harris like a hound dog chasing a cotton-tail rabbit. As a teenager living with his mom in Riverdale, Georgia, he turned to the street hustle to aid his mom in paying the family bills. Soon he was making more money on Bankhead Court on the southwest side of Atlanta than he could by flipping burgers at a McDonald’s. So he never went that route. He got into some trouble, landed in jail and received the label attached to his name of a convicted felon.
Then he discovered music and hip hopped his way out of poverty and the stigma associated with being a convicted felon.
In 2006 his best friend and body guard Philant Johnson was gunned down after the “T. I.” entourage left an adult club in Cincinnati, Ohio following a performance earlier that evening by “T. I.” According to police, the shoot-out followed an incident in the adult club when a group of local men felt they were “dissed”- insulted- by “T. I.’s” group when the locals were hit in the face by money thrown onto the stage for the dancing girls by “T. I.’s entourage.
A group of suspects were arrested and charged with the murder of Philant Johnson. It now became necessary for “T. I.” to testify against the bros who had gunned down his friend. Many in his subculture believe that to testify in court under any set of circumstances is tantamount to being a snitch. And in the world of “stacks on deck and Patron on ice” snitching is a low life “mother.” It does not matter the least that the bros just killed your best buddy.
“T. I.” decided he had to break this unwritten and largely unspoken code of behavior and testify against the bros who resorted to deadly violence over wounded feelings. He began to hear threats the Ohio boys were out to get him. “T. I.” had never lived within the law per se and did not rely upon the law to protect him from the streets. He, after all, personified the streets. He would protect himself, as Malcolm “X” Little suggested, “by any means necessary.” He made arrangements to purchase five machine guns and silencers from a street broker, but was caught in a “sting” conducted by the feds in October 2007. Now, he was atop the hip hop charts and was a convicted felon in possession of five dangerous weapons.
His initial plea to the charges was not guilty. He faced up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible fine up to 250,000 stacks. The thought of spending the next decade behind bars and giving stacks upon stacks to the government did not set well with “T. I..” He hired the Ed Garland Law Firm, a Georgia law firm, which had gained national attention in the successful representation of Baltimore Raven’s Linebacker, Ray Lewis against murder charges in Atlanta during a Super Bowl held in the city ten years ago
The Garland Firm did a nifty dance around traditional plea bargains and convinced the U. S. Attorney’s office to recommend a reduced sentence if “T. I.” remained out of trouble for a year and began doing community service prior to the sentencing. This maneuver is practically unheard of in the legal community. There was an agreement in principal and “T. I.” began a series of talks with young people encouraging them to take a different path than the one chosen by him. He starred in a reality tv show entitled “T. I.’s Road to Redemption.”
Prior to sentencing “T. I.” had completed a total of 1,000 hours of community service. Unlike native Atlantan Adam “Pack Man” Jones, “T. I.” flew under the radar and did not create any other bad headlines. The sentence handed down on March 27, 2009 orders him to serve one year and one day in federal prison in the Atlanta area. He will be on probation for three years following his release and will do an additional 500 hours of community service once he is released from prison. Attending his sentencing hearing as a show of support were former U. S. Ambassador and former mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young and Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of an Atlanta mega church.
In announcing the sentencing, U. S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said that “the community got a break” in this sentencing because of the impact that “T. I.” has on young people. Nahmias said that no one else could reach young people in the same manner that “T. I.” can and has done.
The government expects “T. I.” to turn himself in within the next 30-60 days. In a news conference following the sentencing, “T. I.” encouraged young people to learn from his situation. He went on to say, “I hope that I can keep one if not one million from going down a similar path.”
Good advice as "patron" goes on ice for one year and one day.
© March 29, 2009