QUEENS, New York The Wu-Tang Clan will be short one of its original nine members for at least another year, as Ol' Dirty Bastard was ordered Wednesday (July 18) to spend a minimum 16 months behind bars.
Judge Joseph A. Grosso actually sentenced ODB (born Russell Jones) to two to four years, for possession of 20 vials of crack cocaine, but the rapper will get credit for the eight months he's already served since being picked up as a fugitive in Philadelphia in November (see "O.D.B. Nabbed By Philly Police").
Like anyone sentenced to prison time, the Wu-Tang member will be checked mentally and physically by the New York State Department of Correctional Services, which will determine whether he should be in a drug-rehabilitation or mental-health treatment program while incarcerated. He will also be evaluated for possible participation in programs such as work release and boot camp.
ODB's lawyer, Peter Frankel, voiced concerns over his drug and mental problems throughout the case.
"We're going to make our best efforts to see to it that he gets the help he needs, and he gets out as quickly as possible," Frankel said Wednesday. "The decision was inevitable and it's the first step in getting him back out. ... I think the court and the prosecutor were also in agreement that the sooner we get this over with and get him in the system, the quicker he'll have an opportunity to get out."
ODB had been scheduled for sentencing Tuesday, but that hearing was postponed after the court received a report that ODB may have tried to hurt himself in the psychiatric ward at Kings County Hospital that morning. He was placed in protective custody and put on suicide watch (see "ODB On Suicide Watch, Sentencing Postponed").
The injury proved to be a minor scrape, and both sides said it did not influence the judge's sentencing decision.
"Yesterday's incident was a non-incident," Frankel said. "It was just bad timing. [ODB] sustained a cut to his left arm and it's not clear how it happened. It was a superficial wound and wasn't anything that could even arguably be considered a suicide attempt. It's possible it was an accident."
Judge Grosso recommended that ODB serve his time at the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, in the Wu-Tang's birthplace, Staten Island. But the state Department of Corrections will make the final decision on where he is sent.
The rapper's wife, Icelene Jones, 32, was optimistic as she left the courtroom. "We hope that they're going to put him in Arthur Kill, and he can receive help while he's in there," she said. "It's close by and, considering everything, we think it's going to be best for him. He really needs help."
ODB was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree after police found 20 vials of crack when they pulled over his car on July 31, 1999 (see "ODB Arrested In NYC On Drug, Driving Charges"). He pleaded guilty in April, in a deal under which prosecutor Ken Holder agreed not to pursue a bail-jumping indictment, which could have led to an additional three years in prison (see "ODB Pleads Guilty On Drug Charges"). A deal with Los Angeles prosecutors also assured that any sentence would run concurrently with a sentence there for a probation violation.
The bail-jumping charges were filed after ODB escaped from a Los Angeles rehab clinic in October.
Holder, who recommended the minimum sentence, said justice was served by the judge's sentence.
"My purpose was to get him out of the city system on into the state correctional system," Holder said. "Every day he stays down here, it means another day that it's going to be difficult for anyone to give him the type of treatment that he needs. There's no one putting together any long-term plan for him down here because they're figuring he won't be here."
On August 21, Elektra Records will release Free Dirty, a 12-track greatest hits set featuring such solo classics as "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and "Got Your Money."
ODB will also turn up on Wu-Tang Clan mastermind RZA's forthcoming album, RZA as Bobby Digital: Digital Bullet and Ghostface Killah's Bulletproof Wallets.