One thing is now certain: T.I. is going to prison. A federal judge today approved a negotiated plea for one year plus a day in federal prison for trying to buy machine guns and ammo from undercover agents in 2007. As part of the deal, the rapper was also sentenced to 1,500 hours of community service, a $100,000 fine, and one year of home confinement (much of which he has already served). T.I. could reduce his time behind bars to about 10 months with good behavior. He is scheduled to voluntarily report to prison some time afterMay 19.
But is he getting off too easy? Given that federal sentencing guidelines recommend that a person who pleads guilty to these charges should serve four years and nine months in prison, some Atlanta defense attorneys have suggested that the megastar was able to use his celebrity to reduce the punishment. “This has been an unusual plea from the very beginning,” says Page Pate, a criminal defense attorney with the Atlanta firm Pate & Brody and former chairman of the Criminal Law Section of the Atlanta Bar Association. “But they [apparently] felt he was in the unique position because of the things he could dowith his celebrity that other people couldn’t do. Is it right or wrong? I won’tget into that. But is it fair? No. Joe Smith isn’t going to get this deal.”
But David E. Nahmias, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, who approved the deal, tells EW he believes the good that will come out of T.I.’s assigned community service — 1,030 hours of which he has already served — is more important than time tacked onto his sentence. Over the past year, T.I. has made 262 appearances speaking to thousands of kids about crime, drugs, and gangs (his MTV reality show did not count towards his community service requirement, though Nahmias says his office viewed it as “a good thing”), and he has another 470 hours of service to go once he is released. Nahmias says though there is no way to measure the impact those appearances might have on preventing crime, T.I. has shown he has the ability to reach a demographic that isn’t always willing to listen to adults telling them what’s right and wrong. “We didn’t do this to benefit him,” Nahmias says. “He’s the defendant. If it winds up making him a better person, that’s a nice side effect. But we did this to benefit [the community]. He’s in the unique position as a celebrity with the communication skills and the life story that is powerful when he talks to kids.”
So what do you think? Is it worth granting a convicted celebrity like T.I. some leniency if it can wind up benefiting the greater good? Or should he do the same time as anyone else?
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