MANHATTAN (CN) — The Second Circuit ordered a new trial Tuesday for a hip-hop mogul who was facing multiple life sentences for commissioning a hit on a member of 50 Cent's crew G-Unit.
"We're delighted by this outcome," said Michael Rayfield, an attorney for the former head of Czar Entertainment known professionally as Jimmy the Henchman.
Today's 42-page ruling for James Rosemond makes no mention of this nickname.
"It's a major step in Mr. Rosemond's path to justice," Rayfield said. "James has consistently maintained his innocence, and we'll continue to work hard to make sure that he's ultimately vindicated."
With Rosemond at its head, Czar Entertainment had represented chart-topping hip-hop clients including The Game, Akon, Sean Kingston, Brandy, Gucci Mane and Salt-n-Pepa.
In 2012, a federal jury found that the Brooklyn native was also at the head of an $11 million cocaine ring.
Though already sentenced to life in prison for that conviction, Rosemond faced a separate trial in Manhattan over the murder of Lowell Fletcher, an affiliate of 50 Cent's crew G-Unit also known as "Lodi Mack."
Prosecutors say Rosemond commissioned the grisly shooting in 2009 as payback for Fletcher's assault on the executive's 14-year-old son.
Though the first trial on Fletcher's death ended in a hung jury, another panel convicted Rosemond months later in December 2014.
Though a federal judge sentenced Rosemond to another life sentence for this murder-for-hire, the Second Circuit unanimously overturned the Manhattan convictions Tuesday.
"We conclude that the district court erred in unduly restricting Rosemond's ability to defend against the charges, and that such error was not harmless," U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin wrote for a three-person panel.
Critical to the ruling was a proffer agreement Rosemond signed with the government before the trial. The deal blocked prosecutors from using Rosemond's words against him except to rebut statements made by him or on his behalf at trial.
Rosemond's defense team insisted that the executive did not intend to kill Fletcher, only to wound him as a warning.
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon ruled before trial, however, that prosecutors should be allowed to introduce Rosemond's proffer-session remarks if Rosemond's lawyers made that argument to a jury.
The Second Circuit determined that this ruling was a mistake.
"Rosemond should have been permitted to argue, without triggering the proffer waiver, that the government failed to prove that he intended to murder Fletcher," the 42-page opinion states.
The U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment on the ruling, or reveal whether prosecutors intend to prosecute the case again.
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