Feds Eye Social Media as Rapper Denies Gang Charges

MANHATTAN (CN) – At an arraignment where Tekashi 6ix9ine pleaded not guilty to gang-related racketeering and gun charges, federal prosecutors lobbied Monday for a deep dive into the rapper’s social media accounts.

Daniel Hernandez, known as Tekashi 6ix9ine, performs during the Philipp Plein women’s 2019 Spring-Summer collection on Sept. 21, 2018, unveiled during the Fashion Week in Milan, Italy. Federal authorities say Hernandez is in custody and awaiting a Manhattan court appearance. The Brooklyn-based rapper is among four people arrested on racketeering and firearms charges. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

In the ceremonial courtroom of the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in Manhattan, 6ix9ine, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, sat alone in the back row of the jury box, elevated above three co-defendants in the front row and a middle-row buffer made up of several U.S. marshals.

Prosecutors say 6ix9ine’s co-defendants put a hit out on the rapper two weeks ago after his business relationship soured with the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, a Brooklyn subset of the Bloods street gang.

From that lonely perch in the jury box, the 22-year-old’s trademark face tattoos were barely visible and his once fully day-glow rainbow hair has been distilled to a single pair of long red and green accent braids in a head of otherwise straight black hair.

Charged with racketeering, firearms, assault with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit murder, 6ix9ine could face 32 years to life in federal prison if convicted.

During the one-hour hearing this morning, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer set a trial date for early September 2019, “splitting the baby” between the defendants’ liberty interests and the time their lawyers said they will need to go through the large volume of discovery materials sought by the government.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Longyear said the government is seeking six months of electronic evidence including Instagram, Snapchat and iCloud accounts, along with 20 cellphones belonging to 6ix9ine and his former entourage.

Longyear called 6ix9ine’s Instagram “quite voluminous,” and said the feed is still loading on the government’s platform due to its size. The rapper’s Instagram account, which currently has 14.5 million followers, was the channel for many of his frequent boasts and fiery feuds.

Longyear also explained that the investigators had a Title III electronic surveillance wiretap up from Nov. 1 until the indictment on Nov. 19.

Among other evidence, the government plans to present phone calls from federal prison where co-defendant Fuguan “Fu Banga” Lovick allegedly discussed gang-related activities.

Longyear said the prosecution anticipates a superseding indictment in the near future that would likely add counts related to narcotics and acts of violence.

Judge Engelmayer, who has previously handled  trials in the Southern District of New York involving the Bronx gangs 18 Park and the Trinitarios, said he imagines that by the time of the trial next year, at least a couple co-defendants may become cooperators and shrink the body of defendants from the six named in the indictment.

When Engelmayer asked the prosecution to clarify their references to murder in their indictment, Longyear confirmed the judge’s assertion that the government is “unaware of this gang actually accomplishing a murder.”

Kifano “Tr3yway Shotti” Jordan, a 36-year old co-defendant who served as the CEO of the 6ix9nine’s entertainment group, Tr3yway, capped off the hearing by yelling a message his supporters.

“We don’t fall, we don’t bend and we don’t break,” said Jordan, who is suspected of authorizing a hit on 6ix9ine after their public falling out two weeks ago.

Another apparent supporter in the gallery quickly shouted out a line from 6ix9ine’s song “Tati,” before being quieted down by court security.

“B.B. saggin’, fly like a dragon,” she said hoarsely, as a U.S. marshal walked the shackled rapper past his former associates.

6ix9ine’s defense attorney Lance Lazzaro insists that the Brooklyn hip-hop star is strictly “an entertainer who portrays a “gangster image” to promote his music.”

6ix9ine was denied a proposed $1.5 million bail package last week by U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman. Lazzaro said he plans to challenge Tekashi69’s pretrial detention before the trial judge.

In the meantime, his client is “safe but not happy” while incarcerated in Brooklyn, the attorney told reporters this morning.

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