MIAMI (CN) – The attorney for a rap music producer convicted of drugs and firearms possession told the 11th Circuit on Friday that the government based its accusations against him on flimsy evidence including social media posts and text messages.
The hearing before a three-judge panel stems from federal charges filed in 2016 against Harrison Garcia, a music producer based in Miami who was associated with singer Chris Brown and rapper Lil’ Wayne.
Prosecutors said during trial that Garcia admitted that he supplied Lil’ Wayne with large amounts of narcotics, and that he received $15,000 from Brown for drugs.
According to the criminal complaint, Garcia used his Instagram account to sell codeine, promethazine, marijuana and other control substances.
He was arrested on Oct. 18, 2016, in Miami-Dade County pursuant to a warrant issued in Broward County, and law enforcement officers found illegal substances inside his vehicle and residences including 3,000 Xanax pills and two pounds of marijuana.
Garcia was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2017 for several drug possession charges and two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
On appeal Friday at a special hearing of the 11th Circuit in Miami, attorney Gustavo Daniel Lage with the local firm SMGQ Law said that there were several errors committed during Garcia’s trial related to the authenticity and mismanagement of evidence.
Lage questioned the government’s use of social media posts and text messages as the basis for its case against Garcia.
“They have to prove that Mr. Garcia actually posted that on his Instagram page,” the attorney said.
He continued to say that Homeland Security Agent Kevin Selent, who was involved in the investigation against Garcia, interpreted Garcia’s posts and text messages according to his own criteria even though he was not qualified to do so.
Attorney Eli Rubin, who appeared on behalf of the government, countered by saying that there is circumstantial evidence of Garcia’s ongoing drug operation from 2013 to 2016.
Rubin said that the government notified Garcia during a pretrial conference that it would be filing the social media posts as evidence, and he objected only on relevancy and undue prejudice grounds.
Garcia did object to the text messages evidence, but his objections were waived pursuant to a stipulation signed by him and his counsel, according to Rubin.
“Texts are admissible at trial,” Rubin added.
U.S Circuit Judge Beverly B. Martin seemed concerned about the use of social media as evidence.
“You had substantial evidence in this case. That might have been a bit over the top,” Martin jokingly told Rubin.
Rubin also said that Garcia told Agent Selent that he had an “arsenal of guns to protect him from rival drug dealers.”
In his rebuttal, Lage said, “We believe that there was no evidence of a drug crime, and that the expert’s witness testimony wasn’t enough.”
He concluded that Garcia’s conviction was based on social media posts and previous bad acts, which cumulatively prejudiced his right to a fair trial.
The panel did not indicate when a ruling will be issued.