Thursday, March 26, 2015

Judge Tells Prosecutor That Writing Rap Lyrics About Gangs Is Not A Crime, Duh!

San Diego rapper Tiny Doo faced up to life in prison
because prosecutors said he profited from gang
activity by writing lyrics about gangs.
A California court tossed the charges recently.  
Last November, I told you about the rapper named Tiny Doo, who was jailed and charged with, as prosecutors put it, fitting the legal definition of a gang member who 'willfully promotes, furthers, assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang.'

Prosecutors were applying a law that says if somebody personally profits from gang activity they can be charged with a felony.

So yeah, if Tiny Doo was gunrunning to make a profit and supply the gangs, that would be a problem. It would also be a problem if the gangs paid him to tell them the location of somebody they wanted to kill.

As I noted a few months ago, Tiny Doo did none of these things.

He released a rap album called "No Safety" which had cover art showing a gun and bullets. Plus some of the lyrics dealt with the things gang members do.

Because he made money rapping about the things gangs do, he profited from gang activity, said prosecutors.

Thankfully, a judge just said, Uh, No. The First Amendment wins after all. Just because gang members like your music, doesn't mean you should be charged with the crime of profiting from gangs.

Says 7NBC in San Diego:

"(Prosecutors) claimed his homegrown music helped inspire the violence, even though there is no evidence connecting him to the actual shootings."

The prosecutors' logic, it seems, is akin to somebody listening to the old song "I Don't Like Mondays," which is about a school shooting, and then claiming a real school shooting arose because the assailant happened to hear that song.

Or as Tiny Doo's defense attorney, Brian Watkins said, "I think the whole world was watching because when they put our First Amendment here in America on trial, to say that Brandon Duncan's rap music encouraged these shootings."

That's why I'm making such a big deal out of this one case. Slippery slopes don't always happen, of course, but what's to stop some prosecutor from making a crime out of producing any kind of art the prosecutor thinks is distasteful.

I happen to like the song, "I Don't Like Mondays" so should I be arrested as a potential school shooter even though the last thing I ever want to do is bring a gun near a school. (I don't even have a gun, for crissakes. )  

 7NBC in San Diego says San Diego County District Attorney spokeswoman Tanya Sierra released a statement saying the office would respect the court's decision but added this:

"While a debate over the law can be constructive and educational, combatting the scourge of deadly gang violence remains our focus. Instead of waiting for ore shootings and murders to victimize the community we used this law to cripple the organization."

I'm all for stopping violence and putting gangs out of business, but maybe prosecutors should have went after gangs without getting creative with the First Amendment. I'm sure they can pin a lot of evidence on gang members who shot or threatened people.

The District Attorney's office said all the people they charged in connection with the Tiny Doo case are gang members. So, prove it. Is Tiny Doo a gang member or not?  If he is, you'd think there'd be evidence beyond the fact he made rap music.

The statement from Sierra's office said court records show that everybody's a gang member in this case and the media is being manipulated.

I would think that somebody in the media would find the supposed evidence that Tiny is a gang member and report it.

If so, charge him. With real evidence. Until then, I'm totally writing this off as prosecutorial overreach. And I'm offended the prosecutor has such little regard for the First Amendment.

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