NEW YORK Jay-Z declared himself "100 percent innocent" of gun possession charges Friday night as he was released on bail in a case that began 18 hours earlier, when police allegedly found a loaded gun in his bodyguard's waistband.
A group of fans who had gathered outside the courthouse cheered and
broke into a chant of "not guilty, not guilty" as Jay-Z hurriedly made
his way to a waiting Mercedes a few minutes before 10 p.m.
"That's my mother," the rapper said before he left, pointing to a woman in the crowd. "She can go anywhere that she wants and hold her head up because her son is 100 percent innocent."
After Jay-Z's arraignment on a charge of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, Judge Laura Ward released him on $10,000 bail less than the $30,000 demanded by the prosecutor.
The judge was clearly not a hip-hop fan, however. She appeared baffled when Jay-Z's lawyer, Stacey Richman, declared him a "musical genius" in asking for reduced bail. Richman then explained that her client, whose real name is Shawn Carter, is known by the name Jay-Z.
"I still don't know who he is," Ward said.
Richman went on to argue that the gun possession case against the rapper is "very slim." Just before his arrest, Jay-Z was in the back of a car, behind a partition, and was unaware that his bodyguard had a gun in the front of the car, Richman claimed.
The bodyguard, Hamza Hewitt, was also arraigned and released on gun
possession charges, as were the other two people in the car, record
executive Tyran Smith and limo company owner Romero Chambers.
Clad in the same white Roca Wear T-shirt and jeans he wore during his
brief performance at Manhattan's Club Exit early Friday morning, Jay-Z
seemed weary but relatively cheerful during his arraignment, talking
animatedly with his lawyer and co-defendants before leaving the
Hewitt's lawyer, Robert Kalina who represents Jay-Z in other matters said Hewitt is licensed to carry a firearm in Georgia. The judge told him, however, that it would still be illegal for Hewitt to have a gun in New York.
Members of the New York City Police Department's street crime unit claim to have seen Hewitt retrieve a gun from a compartment in the front passenger door of a Chevy Suburban parked in front of Club Exit.
Hewitt then allegedly placed the gun in his waistband and entered the
car, which drove off with Jay-Z and two other men inside, according to
police. Officers pulled the car over moments after it left the club, and they arrested all four men (see "UPDATE: Jay-Z Arrested On Gun Charge").
Kalina said he believes evidence will show that police couldn't
have been able to see Hewitt retrieve a gun from the door.
Jay-Z and his co-defendants are scheduled to return to court June 26.
But before that, the rapper is due in court Wednesday to
answer charges of stabbing music executive Lance "Un" Rivera in December 1999, with jury selection for a trial in that case possibly slated for that day. His $50,000 bail in that case could be affected by the gun possession charge, the judge said at his arraignment.