Rapper Whose Gang Admissions Went Viral Sentenced to Prison

MANHATTAN (CN) — A federal judge gave Tekashi 6ix9ine a two-year sentence Wednesday for his involvement with the Brooklyn set of the Bloods gang whose members the gangster rapper spent days on the stand fingering as a government cooperator.

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. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

The 23-year-old artist, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, faced a possible 47-year sentence, having pleaded guilty in January to nine gang-related counts including racketeering, narcotics conspiracy and attempted murder.

Already in protective custody since November 2018, 6ix9ine agreed as part of that plea to cooperate with prosecutors in New York’s Southern District against his former Nine Trey associates. At trial in September, the Brooklyn native spent days on the stand granularly identifying the gang’s members and crimes in his music videos, social media and extensive wiretap evidence.

Tekashi’s attorneys sought a sentence of time served that would have made the face-tattooed rapper a free man Wednesday afternoon. Rejecting that bid, however, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer said such a sentence “does not come to grips with the deadly serious nature of the crimes.”

Engelmayer said Tekashi’s conduct with the Nine Trey Bloods gang was “too violent, too sustained, too destructive, too selfish.”

The judge lauded Tekashi’s cooperation with the government as “impressive.”

“It was game changing, it was complete and it was brave,” he continued.

Judge Engelmayer said the 24-month sentence, which includes five years of supervised release with 300 hours of community service, was “sufficient but not greater than necessary.”

“The gang was doing your bidding, and you made it worth their while,” Engelmayer said at the sentencing hearing. “They got something out of it, and so did you.”

While plenty of artists sing about crime, Judge Engelmayer noted that Tekashi went further to use Nine Trey as his “personal hit squad.”

“It’s a common motif … Bruce Springsteen sang about Murder Incorporated, you essentially joined Murder Incorporated,” the judge proclaimed.

The breadth of Tekashi’s public testimony quickly became a viral cultural phenomenon online, effectively equating him to cooperator of the year. Last month when Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, detailed the president’s attempt to trade U.S. military aid to Ukraine for his own personal political benefit, colorful parts of the internet instantly compared Sondland to Tekashi.

In a letter seeking the lenient sentence of time served, Tekashi’s defense attorney Lance Lazzaro conceded that his client admittedly engaged in criminal acts with various Nine Trey gang members.

But “despite the grave risk, he later publicly denounced Nine Trey, even before he was ever arrested and before he began cooperating with the government,” Lazzaro wrote. “He denounced the gang both on a radio show and via a video posted on social media.”

6ix9ine and five other alleged members of the Nine Trey set of the Bloods gang were arrested on racketeering charges in November 2018 after a government wiretap intercepted a credible threat that ex-associates of the New York rapper had authorized a hit to “super violate” him one day after the rapper publicly cut all ties to his manager, booking agent and publicist in an appearance on the popular “Breakfast Club” radio show.

At a bail hearing in November 2018, Judge Engelmayer, who has previously handled trials in the Southern District of New York involving the Bronx gangs 18 Park and the Trinitarios, correctly anticipated that at least a couple co-defendants may become cooperators and diminish the body of defendants from the six named in the original indictment.

The only two alleged Nine Trey Bloods who ended up going to trial were Anthony “Harv” Ellison, a co-defendant from the original indictment who did not take a plea, and Aljermiah “Nuke” Mack, who was added in a superseding indictment in June.

Both Ellison and Mack were charged and convicted with being members of the Nine Trey racketeering enterprise.

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