Def Jam’s Russell Simmons Responds To Diallo Verdict

As New York City prepares for more protests following last Friday’s ruling in the controversial Amadou Diallo case, Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons has come out to express his own sense of frustration at the verdict.

Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, was gunned down by four plain-clothed police officers in the Bronx on February 4, 1999. During the tragic incident, the officers shot at Diallo 41 times — hitting him 19 times — after claiming that Diallo had made threatening gestures with what appeared to be a gun but what turned out to be a wallet.

Late Friday, a racially mixed jury in Albany, New York — where the trial had been moved — ruled that the four officers were innocent of all charges, although the decision reverberated throughout New York City over the weekend during a series of organized protests and marches.

Shortly after the verdict, Def Jam/Def Soul Chairman Russell Simmons, who produced seminal rap albums for Run-DMC and L.L. Cool
J in the mid-’80s, issued a statement taking aim at Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a figure currently embroiled in a political run for a New York Senate seat.

“I am horrified by the outcome of the Diallo case,” Simmons wrote. “This verdict stands as another reason for the community to stand together for a change.

“The hip-hop community moves as an army that has the power to elect government and puts the people first vs. the officially sanctioned and promoted police state mentality of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

“This verdict will continue to motivate me to be part of the aggressive effort that galvanizes our youth to register, vote and make changes in the current system.”

Despite Friday’s ruling, the Diallo family has indicated that it will ask federal prosecutors to re-evaluate the case against the four officers, and will likely level a multi-million dollar civil suit against New York City.

In related news, this week rappers Black Star plans to release the “Hip-Hop
For Respect” maxi-single. The duo of Mos Def and Talib Kweli recorded the anti-police brutality track last year, partially in response to the police slaying of Diallo (see “Black Star And Friends To Issue ‘Hip-Hop For Respect’” ).