NEW YORK Jamal "Shyne" Barrow apologized to the victims of the Club New York shootings Friday afternoon just before a judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison for his role in the melee.
"I never meant to hurt nobody I was afraid for my life," Shyne told Judge Charles Solomon in a choked voice. "I'm [asking] for mercy [and for you] not to waste my life."
Shyne was convicted in March on two counts of assault, reckless endangerment and gun possession for the December 27, 1999, shootings. The rapper admitted to firing a gun at Club New York, but maintained that he was acting in self-defense and that another gunman's bullets injured the two victims. He faced up to 25 years in prison.
Solomon told the packed courtroom that the sentencing decision was one of the most difficult he had ever faced. "It's a tragedy all around," he said. "This is a young man who had a promising future."
The judge said that while he saw "a lot of good" in the 22-year-old rapper, he could not overlook the seriousness of his crime.
Solomon then sentenced Shyne to 10 years in state prison on the most serious charge, first-degree assault, for shooting Natania Reuben in the face. Shyne was given four other sentences on his other charges, ranging from two-and-a-third to seven years, but the sentences will run concurrently, meaning he will only have to serve 10 years total.
He will not be eligible for parole until he serves eight years and seven months including the two months he's already served at Rikers Island according to his lawyers and a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Corrections.
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs who signed Shyne to his Bad Boy Entertainment label was acquitted on all charges in the same trial (see "Puffy Combs Acquitted; Shyne Guilty Of Assault, Gun Possession").
Combs issued a statement Friday afternoon (June 1) calling Shyne's sentence "unfair and extreme."
"I know he had no intention of hurting anyone," Combs said in the statement. "My prayers are with him and his family. I'm shocked by today's outcome. I will continue to support Shyne throughout his appeal."
A newly hired defense lawyer, Diarmuid White, will handle Shyne's appeal.
Shooting victim Reuben described the impact of her injuries on her life in court Friday; fellow victim Julius Jones was in the courtroom but did not speak.
"I know you're close to your grandmother and mother I am too," Reuben said to Shyne. "Can you imagine receiving a call saying that your mother was shot in the face?"
Friends and family wept as Solomon read Shyne's sentence, but Reuben cried out, "Thank you, Jesus."
As court officers took Shyne away, his mother yelled, "I love you, Shyne."
"I love you, Ma," he replied, on the verge of tears.
Shyne will stay at Rikers Island while awaiting assignment to one of New York's 16 maximum security state prisons, according to a Department of Corrections spokesperson.
(This story was updated at 05:05 p.m. ET Friday, June 1, 2001.)