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Rapper T.I. arrested on machine gun charges, misses BET show

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: "Number of people" live in home where guns found, T.I.'s attorney says
  • T.I. was to perform at BET show, where he was nominated for nine awards
  • The rapper, a convicted felon, allegedly tried to buy machine guns, silencers
  • Authorities say they found nine more guns after searching T.I.'s home, car
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Rapper T.I. was arrested on federal gun charges just hours before he was scheduled to perform at the BET Hip Hop Awards, according to federal authorities.

T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, was arrested without incident in midtown Atlanta.

The entertainer, whose real name is Clifford Harris, was arrested in a federal sting Saturday after his bodyguard-turned-informant delivered three machine guns and two silencers to the hip-hop star, according to a Justice Department statement.

Authorities said that Harris, 27, provided the bodyguard $12,000 to buy the weapons, which Harris is not allowed to own because he is a convicted felon. Court documents said Harris was convicted on felony drug charges in 1998, and a federal affidavit said he has been arrested on gun charges in the past.

However, one of his attorneys, Dwight Thomas, said Sunday he was not aware Harris was a convicted felon and that "a number of people" live in Harris' suburban Atlanta home. Thomas added there were "two sides to every story -- sometimes three" and he was confident the legal system would work in Harris' favor.

The entertainer was taken into custody about 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday in Atlanta, where the BET award show was filmed.

Harris, the show's top nominee, was up for nine awards, including CD of the year and lyricist of the year. He also was scheduled to perform, along with fellow rap stars Common, Nelly and Kanye West.

The show went on without the self-proclaimed "King of the South," whose car and College Park, Georgia, home were searched following his arrest. Video Watch a search of the rapper's home »

Authorities said they found three more firearms in the car in which Harris drove to pick up the machine guns and silencers, "including one loaded gun tucked between the driver's seat where Harris had been sitting and the center console."

At his home, authorities found six other guns, five of them loaded, in his bedroom closet.

"Machine guns pose a serious danger to the community, which is why they are so carefully regulated," said David Nahmias, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

"The last place machine guns should be is in the hands of a convicted felon, who cannot legally possess any kind of firearm. This convicted felon allegedly was trying to add several machine guns to an already large and entirely illegal arsenal of guns."

The sting came after Harris' bodyguard was arrested purchasing the machine guns and silencers from an undercover Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Wednesday, according to the Justice Department statement. The bodyguard then agreed to cooperate with the ATF, the statement said.

The guns were not registered on the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record as required by law. The bodyguard -- who has worked for Harris since July -- told authorities he had bought about nine guns for the rap star in the past, the statement said.

On Wednesday, authorities said, Harris arranged for the bodyguard to pick up $12,000 in cash from a bank to buy the guns. After his arrest, the bodyguard made phone calls to Harris, which authorities recorded, the statement said.

Harris was supposed to pick up the guns after meeting the bodyguard in a shopping center parking lot in midtown Atlanta. Authorities arrested Harris there without incident, the Justice Department statement said.

Court documents in the case show Harris was convicted on felony drug charges in Cobb County, Georgia, in 1998 and sentenced to seven years' probation. "Harris has additional arrests and at least one probation violation for unlawfully possessing firearms," according to an affidavit.

Harris' music is built around the drug culture and is known as "trap musik," the name of Harris' second album. A "trap" is Southern slang for a drug house.


Harris will be held in federal custody over the weekend and will appear Monday before a magistrate judge, the Justice Department statement said.

Harris soon will appear in the movie "American Gangster," starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. The film is set to open November 2. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN Radio's Rahul Bali contributed to this report.

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