Rapper Mystikal was sentenced Thursday by a district court judge in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to a six-year prison term for sexual battery for attacking his former hairstylist.
Judge Anthony Marabella also required Mystikal (real name Michael Tyler) to register with the state as a sex offender. Under Louisiana state law, Mystikal will be eligible for parole after two years behind bars.
Mystikal had originally been charged with aggravated rape and extortion on July 18, 2002, after police arrested him and two bodyguards for threatening to turn his former hairstylist in to police for cashing $80,000 worth of unauthorized checks from the rapper's bank account if she did not have oral sex with them (see "Mystikal Charged With Rape, Extortion"). In Louisiana, aggravated rape carries a mandatory sentence of life without probation. On July 19, police revealed that they had found a videotape of the assault (see "Mystikal Videotaped Alleged Rape, Police Say").
After numerous meetings with the state prosecutor, Mystikal's lawyer J. David Bourland was able to whittle the charges down to sexual battery in exchange for a guilty plea.
In early December, Mystikal's lawyer filed a motion to withdraw his client's guilty plea to sexual battery of the infirmed and no contest to extortion when he learned that prosecutors had given judge Marabella the videotape of the sexual assault. As part of their negotiation, the prosecutor agreed the tape would remain sealed and would not be admitted in the case as evidence. However, when the judge asked to see the videotape, the prosecution gave it to him to view.
"I cannot say in good faith the state deceived us, but there may have been a misunderstanding," Bourdin said. "They said they were not going to use the tape to increase the sentence and we took that to mean the tape would be held confidential forever. The state did not bring the tape up to the judge; he asked to see the tape before sentencing."
Though he is convinced he could have withdrawn Mystikal's guilty plea and started a new trial, Bourdin said he decided not to do so because the charges against his client would have been escalated back to aggravated rape.
Judge Marabella read Mystikal's sentence on Thursday with disdain. "The court is convinced that the defendant believes he is above the law and can take the law into his own hands," he said, according to the Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate. "You received a significant break when the district attorney reduced the charges. ... If it weren't for the victim [agreeing to lesser charges in exchange for a guilty plea], the sentence would have been the maximum 10 years."
"We are satisfied with the sentence," Bourdin said. "Sometimes a bird in the hand is better than two in the tree. The videotape of the incident is so inflammatory that it would have been very damaging if it had been presented in an aggravated rape case."
Prosecuting attorney Sue Bernie is also happy with the decision even though the judge made it clear that he would have sentenced Mystikal to the full 10 years had he not copped a plea. Like Bourdin, she sought to keep the videotape out of the courtroom, but for a different reason.
"Our goal was to save our client's dignity, and if we could avoid that particular tape being made public and still get justice, that was the goal," Bernie said. "If we were to proceed with the aggravated rape charge, the videotape would have had to be played and it would have been made part of the public record."
Before criminal negotiations between Bourdin and Bernie began, Mystikal underwent sexual-assault counseling and did community service. He also settled with the woman for an undisclosed sum in order to prevent her from filing a civil suit against him.
As part of his decision, Judge Marabella also ruled that when Mystikal gets out of jail he will have to serve five years of probation for extortion. This means that Mystikal will have to pay $100 per month to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Division of Probation and Parole to defray the costs of supervision; remain employed; undergo substance-abuse evaluation and follow all recommended treatment; remain alcohol- and drug-free; submit to random urinalysis at his own expense; and maintain no contact with the victim or her family. If he violates any of the terms of probation, Mystikal will return to prison for up to 10 more years.
The two bodyguards who took part in the assault also pleaded guilty. Vercy Carter will spend up to four years in jail and Leland Ellis will remain in prison for up to three years.