A year and a day for Lil' Kim
NEW YORK (Court TV) -- Lil' Kim will be doing a little time.
The rap diva, whose real name is Kimberly Jones, was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison Wednesday, for lying to a grand jury about a 2001 gun fight between members of her rap entourage and a rival rap crew.
"I can tell you this is by far the toughest thing I have ever had to go through," Jones said in a thin, shaky voice as she stood before the judge, clutching a Bible, and belatedly admitting guilt after having maintained her innocence throughout trial. "I testified falsely during the grand jury and in trial. At the time, I thought it was the right thing to do, but now I know I was wrong."
Jones was also fined $50,000 and will be on three years' probation after her release. She has requested to do her time at Danbury, a minimum-security federal institution in Connecticut, to be close to her mother. She will surrender to federal authorities on September 19 at 2 p.m.
The 4-foot-11 rap star was convicted March 17, 2005, of one count of conspiracy to commit perjury, and three counts of perjuring herself before a grand jury that was investigating a February 25, 2001 shoot-out in front of a Manhattan radio station.
The judge admonished her Wednesday for perjuring herself again in his courtroom during her turn on the stand.
"You tried to charm them and fake them out," U.S. District Judge Gerard Lynch said of her performance for the jury. "They saw you lie to them. I saw you lie. It was an insult to the court and to the system."
Still, Judge Lynch said he read every single letter he received from family, friends and fans offering support to Jones and urging leniency ("and in one or two cases severity") in her sentencing.
"They do make a difference," he said, as they helped him see "the human being and not just the crime that's being committed."
Judge Lynch suggested Jones read the letters herself, as a reminder to live up to the role model her fans purport her to be.
"It would be gratifying," he told the pint-sized lyricist who calls herself the Queen Bee. "But, I hope it also stings a little."
Jones sat still and timid at the defense table. Gone were the jewels, painted face and overstuffed push-up bra that marks her hip-hop image. She wore a periwinkle pantsuit with matching periwinkle purse, a buttoned-up white blouse, and a pale gloss on her lips.
During the two-and-a-half-hour sentencing hearing, the judge theorized that Jones' 11th-hour acceptance of responsibility and remorse had a profound social effect -- that it sent "a message to the hip-hop community" that lying to protect gun-toting criminals "isn't the way to play it."
He also considered how his sentence on "a young, black woman entertainer" would be perceived in the wake of the Martha Stewart perjury trial, which centered on "an older white woman entertainer."
Stewart spent five months in prison and five months home confinement for lying about insider trading. Prosecutors in Jones' case were pushing for 33 to 41 months prison time.
"Do you think I could justify to the newspaper-reading public why [Jones] gets a sentence seven to eight times higher?" Lynch asked prosecutors. He agreed with them, however, that Jones' case was "unquestionably a more serious case" because she perjured herself to protect "people carrying machine guns and shooting at people."
Lil' Kim's troubles began about four years ago when she and members of her former rap family Jr. M.A.F.I.A. were leaving WQHT-FM, Hot 97, a hip-hop station in Greenwich Village where Jones had just made an appearance as a guest DJ.
Her posse was exiting the building just as rival hip-hop rappers Capone-N-Noreaga were arriving.
Jones' crew knew that Kiam Holley, aka Capone, and female rapper Inga Merchand, aka Foxy Brown, had slung insults at Jones on the song "Bang Bang" from Capone-N-Noreaga's 2000 album, "The Reunion."
In a matter of minutes, the war of words escalated to a street battle.
Jones' manager Damion Butler, aka D-Roc, and friend Suif Jackson, aka "Gutta," pulled their guns -- including a fully automatic machine gun -- and opened fire on the rival crew.
After the smoke cleared, nearly two dozen shots were fired and one man was sent to the hospital with a bullet in his back. No one was killed.
Merchand was not present during the gun fight. She told MTV afterward that she had no regrets about making "Bang Bang," a song she said was in "retaliation to what they've been saying about me for the last two or three years," but that she never thought the cheap shots would give way to gunshots.
Jurors deliberated for two and a half days before finding Jones guilty of perjury and conspiring with her co-defendant and best friend Monique Dopwell to lie before the grand jury. Both women were acquitted of the more serious charge of obstruction of justice. Dopwell, who faces sentencing on Friday, was found guilty of conspiracy and two counts of perjury.
Jones did not have a weapon, and the judge said Wednesday that it wasn't clear that she was even aware of who started shooting.
Her misstep with the law came when she lied about her friends.
Jones denied having a friendship with Jackson when investigators showed her a picture of him during a grand jury investigation; she also denied seeing Butler at any time during or after the shooting.
But jurors watched video from the surveillance cameras at Hot 97 showing both men accompanying her in and out of the station. Jones claimed she was confused and under stress when investigators questioned her. She also contended that she had a falling out with the men and had no reason to protect them.
Further complicating her defense -- the bullets and bravado that Butler and Jackson brought to the street fizzled when they copped to weapons charges and agreed to testify against the Queen Bee as part of their plea bargains.
Their abandonment of Jones marked the demise of the Jr. M.A.F.I.A. crew, a group formed in Bedford-Stuyvesant more than a decade ago with the late Notorious B.I.G., aka Christopher Wallace, as its godfather and Jones as the diminutive, feisty godmother.
Wallace, who was Jones' mentor and boyfriend, was shot to death in a Los Angeles drive-by shooting in 1997. His family is currently engaged in a wrongful death civil case against the city, claiming that a crooked police officer conspired with a rival rap crew to plan Wallace's killing.
After handing down his sentence Wednesday, Judge Lynch blamed the vicious cycle of lies and secrecy in the hip-hop community for Wallace's unsolved murder. It was a stinging rebuke to his former lover.
"The man is dead," the judge said forcefully. "Someone killed him and it's because people do what you did that we still don't know who killed him."
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