Federal Judge's Ruling Locks Up DMX

After almost a year of legal wrangling over guilty plea, rapper must surrender Friday to begin jail sentence on traffic violation.

Despite last-minute efforts by his lawyer to keep him out of jail, rapper DMX will be forced to surrender Friday to the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden, New York, to serve a 15-day-sentence for driving without a license — almost a year after he pleaded guilty.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara on Thursday (February 8) denied DMX's appeal for a stay of sentence, which would have allowed the rapper to stay out of jail while the judge reviews a petition filed by his lawyer on Tuesday in Buffalo, New York. Defense attorney Mark Mahoney had asked for a writ of habeas corpus, a request for the federal court to justify its detention of DMX and review alleged constitutional violations in state court proceedings.

Mahoney's request to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals was denied last week. Last month, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph P. McCarthy upheld a prior ruling based on the rule that when a defendant pleads guilty, he or she waives the right to appeal the legality of the conviction or challenge the harshness of his or her sentence.

"Honestly, in my 30 years in law, I have never seen a traffic matter go to federal court," Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark said. "I am amazed by all of the legal churning I have seen over such a minor offense."

DMX was arrested March 3 on the Kensington Expressway for traffic violations, driving with a suspended permit and possessing marijuana (see "DMX Arrested On Driving, Drug Possession Charges"). He later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of driving without a license, and Cheektowaga, New York, Town Justice Ronald E. Kmiotek ordered the maximum 15-day jail term and $400 in fines.

Clark said that under state routine, DMX (born Earl Simmons) will only have to serve nine to 10 days if he is well behaved.

Arcara did not rule on the petition for a writ of habeas corpus and will continue to review it, though it is unlikely a decision will be made before DMX has finished his sentence. Therefore, according to Clark, Thursday's denial of a stay signaled the end of the proceedings.

Mahoney did not have a statement from DMX, but said, "I am disappointed because I feel that if we could get a judge to actually hear us on the main issue, that of the harshness of the sentence, we should win. We are caught by the application of a rule established by the New York Court of Appeals that presumes that one who gives up the right to appeal their conviction means also to give up the right to appeal the sentence that has not yet been imposed."

DMX, a brash rapper from Yonkers, New York, has a long history in the courtroom. A Westchester County, New York, grand jury indicted him on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree and unlawful possession of marijuana last summer. He was cleared of a stabbing charge by Denver authorities in 1999, and was exonerated of a rape charge by the Bronx district attorney in 1998.

The rapper, whose 1998 debut album, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, entered the charts at #1 and featured the singles "Ruff Ryders Anthem" and "Get at Me Dog," was recently nominated for two Grammys, including Best Hip-Hop Album for 2000's ... And Then There Was X. Unless he is released from jail early, the rapper will miss the Grammy ceremony February 21 in Los Angeles.