October 16th, 2011
ATLANTA (AP) — A federal judge revoked rapper T.I.’s probation Friday and ordered him back to prison for 11 months following his arrest last month in California on suspicion of drug possession.
The Atlanta native, whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr., was on probation after serving 10 months behind bars on federal weapons charges.
“I think Mr. Harris had had about the limit of second chances,” U.S. District Court Judge Charles Pannell Jr. said in court, according to a report by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
During the hearing, T.I. begged the judge not to send him back to prison, saying he needed to get help for drug addiction. He told the judge he “screwed up” and pleaded for mercy.
“I screwed up big time, and I’m sorry. I’m truly and sincerely sorry. I don’t want and I don’t need to use drugs anymore. I want them out of my life,” Harris told the judge, the Journal-Constitution reported.
The Associated Press was relying on information from the newspaper because the judge closed the courtroom after it was filled and several media outlets including AP were not allowed inside.
Pannell wasn’t swayed by the rapper’s plea.
The judge had said T.I.’s sentence was an “experiment” he hoped to replicate if it worked. The rapper was allowed to stay out of prison while performing 1,000 hours of community service, mostly talking with schoolchildren about the dangers of gangs, drugs and violence.
“You certainly dumped a lot of smut on the whole experiment,” Pannell told T.I.
The Grammy Award-winning artist is one of the biggest names in hip-hop, with multiple platinum-selling albums and singles, production credits and roles in films like “ATL” and “American Gangster.”
After the hearing, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said she was disappointed with T.I.
“We had hoped that this would be a new, innovative opportunity,” she told AP. “We’re not giving up on Mr. Harris, but … if you veer off the road of redemption, there are consequences.”
The rapper, wearing a gray three-piece suit, walked out of court with family and friends, leaving the building through a back exit without speaking to reporters.
He is expected to surrender voluntarily to authorities Nov. 1. As a condition of his release earlier this year, he was ordered not to commit another federal, state or local crime while on supervised release, or to illegally possess a controlled substance. He was also told to take at least three drug tests after his release and to participate in a drug and alcohol treatment program.
Yates urged the judge to consider a sentence of two years in prison. She said T.I. submitted diluted urine samples and told his probation officer he had used ecstasy at least three times since leaving prison.
T.I’s attorneys argued that after reviewing nearly 250 cases with similar charges, none of those people were put back behind bars for violating probation, Crosby said. Additionally, the attorneys told the judge that Harris was addicted to drugs and has attempted to turn his life around since leaving prison.
T.I.’s label, Atlantic Records, put out a statement: “T.I. is such an important and valued member of our Atlantic family. We offer to him and his family our continued love and support during this very difficult time.”
Earlier this week, Atlanta police said T.I. helped them talked a suicidal man down from a skyscraper. The rapper heard about the man on the radio and drove over to see if he could help.
The man agreed to come down from the 22-story building in exchange for a few minutes with the rapper, authorities said. They added he recorded a cell phone video of himself that was shown to the man by rescue workers to prove he was really there.
T.I. rejected suggestions that his intervention was a stunt to gain advance favor with the court.
Atlanta Police Department spokesman Officer James Polite testified at Friday’s hearing about being present when T.I. lent his assistance.
“We believed it was genuine,” Polite said of Harris’ offer to help. “He gave words of encouragement and was an intricate part of having that situation safely and quickly resolved.”
Associated Press writer Dorie Turner contributed to this report.