UK rapper jailed for gun offence
LONDON, England -- A member of British rap group So Solid Crew has been sentenced to 18 months in a young offenders' institution for gun possession.
Nineteen-year-old Ashley Walters, whose stage name is Asher D, had pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm.
He was arrested in July 2001 after an argument with a traffic warden in central London.
So Solid Crew had a number one hit in August 2001 with "21 Seconds" and won the Best British Video for the track at the recent Brit Awards.
Walters was "greatly relieved" at the outcome, his spokeswoman Nina Santiago said after the court ruling on Monday in London.
"Ashley...is grateful that the judge felt able to distinguish the facts of the case and Ashley's personal circumstances from the adverse publicity that surrounds the So Solid Crew," she added.
The group, which has up to 30 members, has been plagued by controversy following the shooting of two men at a gig in London's Astoria last year which forced it to cancel a UK tour.
And in October, group member Darren Weir, 22, was convicted of breaking a 16-year-old fan's jaw in a Cardiff hotel lobby.
Walters' lawyer had told the court that Walters had obtained the gun because he had become "scared and paranoid" as his success generated jealousy.
"Both Ashley and his family trust that communities throughout the UK have time to digest the events which gave rise to him feeling he had no option other than to arm himself for self protection," Santiago said.
Walters, a father of two, had previously enjoyed success as an actor, appearing in British television dramas "Grange Hill" and "The Bill."
The judge told him that despite the violence and threats he had repeatedly suffered in the past at the hands of those jealous of his fame, the fact remained he had no "possible justification" for going armed in the way he did.
However, it was clear he had not fired the weapon or "had in mind to put it to any particular use".
His early guilty plea, his good character and the many "glowing" testimonials put before the court also stood him in good stead.
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February 20, 2002
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