T.I. will go before a federal judge in Atlanta on Friday afternoon (October 15) after he was arrested last month in Los Angeles on drug-possession charges, a violation of his probation that could send him back to prison.
The MC’s arrest drew a collective gasp from fans and music-industry insiders since T.I.’s recent probation is the result of an experimental plea deal reached after his 2007 arrest and subsequent trial on charges of attempting to illegally purchase firearms — this, too, while on a seven-year probation stint stemming from an earlier conviction in 1998.
T.I. was sentenced in the 2007 case to one year and one day in prison. He was released before a year’s time and finished his sentence in a halfway house, where he was permitted to leave to record material for his forthcoming album, King Uncaged.
He’s now widely expected to return to prison; prosecutors are reportedly arguing for the rapper to be sent away for 11 to 18 months, while T.I.’s defense team is suggesting five to eight months would be more appropriate.
MTV News spoke with legal expert Scott Leemon (his clients include rappers Tony Yayo and Remy Ma), who weighed in on some pertinent questions regarding Tip’s hearing.
MTV: What is the likelihood that T.I.’s new sentence will be the result of a compromise between the prosecution and the defense’s suggestions?
Scott Leemon: “Federal sentencing guidelines are non-binding,” he said. That means that a judge isn’t obligated to stick them in deciding T.I.’s fate. “Depending on the severity of the violation and the criminal history of the defendant and the criminal history category at the time of the sentencing, [those] are the factors that will give the judge a recommended sentencing. Now while that recommendation is free to use, he can totally ignore it and do whatever he feels is appropriate. It depends how pissed off the judge is [with T.I.].”
MTV: T.I. reportedly tested positive for drugs after his arrest and a passenger in the vehicle at the time was identified as convicted felon Cortez “C-Rod” Thomas. Given that the drug charges and T.I.’s reported association with another felon appear to be strict violations of his probation, is the hearing just a matter of formality?
Leemon: “The judge will hear both sides, that’s for sure. The difference, though, between a violation hearing [like T.I’s] and a trial is the standard of proof is totally different. In a violation of probation hearing, the standard is only a preponderance of evidence, meaning more likely than not [the evidence shows] it happened. If it tipped a little bit in favor that you did it, then you’re guilty. ”
MTV: Will T.I. have to turn himself in immediately if he’s sentenced or will he have time before something like that?
Leemon: “It’s totally up to the judge. What he feels is appropriate and how pissed off he is. If they revoke his supervised release, they usually lock you up right there.”