Now that Lil' Kim has been convicted of perjury, the two biggest questions surrounding the Queen Bee are how much time will she get and did she do herself a disservice by not copping a plea before the case went to trial?
Kim, who'll be sentenced June 24, faces up to 20 years after being found guilty Thursday of three counts of perjury and one count of conspiring with a co-defendant; each count carried a maximum five-year term (see "Lil' Kim Found Guilty Of Lying To Grand Jury, Investigators").
The rapper, born Kimberly Jones, may have dodged a bullet, though, when she was acquitted on an obstruction of justice charge, which would have tacked on even more time to her sentence. After deliberating for two and a half days, the jury determined the hip-hop diva had lied to investigators about a 2001 shooting incident outside New York's Hot 97 radio station (see "Lil' Kim Indicted For Lying About Hot 97 Shootout With Capone"), but apparently were not confident she'd done so in order to disrupt the probe.
Just how much time Kim will serve is ultimately up to Judge Gerard Lynch, but at least one expert said the first-time offender certainly won't spend two decades behind bars.
"[When sentencing,] the judge is free to consider any other information about the offense and about the defendant, Lil' Kim," said Gerald Shargel, a noted criminal defense lawyer who has represented mobster John Gotti along with a who's who of celebrity defendants including current client Irv Gotti. "He's free to look at any additional factors and impose a non-guideline sentence. It always depends, in large part, on the judge, and Lynch has a reputation for fairness and balance. She'll get a prison sentence, but nothing like 20 years."
Y. David Scharf, a New York attorney whose clients include Donald Trump, kept a close eye on the Lil' Kim trial, he said, and feels the chips were stacked against the rapper before the trial even got started.
"The fact that [during her earlier grand jury testimony] she got up and denied meeting people when there were pictures of her with those people [put her] in a difficult situation," he said. "The only thing she had going for her was, was what she was going to say going to be believable? Once she lost her credibility on the witness stand, by having said things that were easily refuted, she was in big trouble."
In addition to using Kim's own words against her, prosecutors also relied on testimony from people such as former co-manager Damion Butler and Suif "Gutta" Jackson, a member of her former group Junior M.A.F.I.A, who cooperated as part of a plea bargain (see "Lil' Kim's Ex-Manager To Testify Against Her In Perjury Case").
"When they subpoena you, you go to court or they take your ass to jail. It's just that simple," said fellow Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil' Cease, another key witness for the prosecution. Cease said he testified under duress and that the case against Kim was so strong, she would have been convicted even if he hadn't taken the stand.
"They pulled pictures, interludes, shout-outs on the back of her album," Cease said. "They was in there playing [Lil' Kim's] 'No Matter What They Say' video with all of us there. They had memos of when we flew places with the same names of the two people who copped out to the case [who] she said she didn't know. They got flight information, memos, pictures of her with these same people, so it wasn't about nothing we said. We just went in there and said what they already knew. Would I sit there and be that dumb and lie about something they already know? It's like asking to go that jail. That's what I felt she was doing. It's like asking to go to jail. If I knew all this information, her lawyer knows all this information. If he didn't, he was dumb."
Cease said he agrees with Scharf, who believes Kim should've tried working out a plea deal rather than risking it all with a trial.
"Once she had given testimony that was able to be palpably proven as being untrue, she should have been looking for a way out of this case in the form of a plea bargain," Scharf said. "The trial strategy was undoubtedly that the jury would be star-struck and believe what she had to say, and how she would be able to explain away the hard evidence. But people don't realize New York juries are very savvy. They don't get star-struck. We're on the subway, on the street, we're seeing celebrities all the time. I find in trials and talking to juries and doing analysis of jury actions that they don't take what a celebrity says at face value. We have to have a bit of New York cynicism attached to it."
But once she'd gone the trial route, there was no avoiding the witness stand, Scharf said. "Defendants, unless they are tagged with a criminal history, need to get up on the witness stand and explain their actions. It was the only chance she had in this case for the jury to buy into what she was saying, buy into her explanations."
Scharf said he wasn't shocked by the verdict, but that at times he thought Lil' Kim, "if I were scoring it as a fight," was "ahead on points. But at the end of the day, some of the feedback that I've gotten is that the jury just couldn't reconcile what she was saying with other palpable proof such as the photographs the prosecutor had" showing Kim with Butler, whom she claimed she had not seen on the day of the shooting.
The attorney said he expects Kim will be sentenced to five to seven and a half years and that an appeal is likely. "I don't see any great appellate grounds for it," he said, "but an appeal will perhaps give her negotiating leverage that, after she is sentenced [may allow her to agree to] drop the appeal in exchange for a post-verdict, post-sentencing plea bargain, where she will have to do less time."
The February 25, 2001, shootout outside the offices of Hot 97 is believed to have stemmed from a beef between Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown, who dissed Kim on Capone-N-Noreaga's 2000 album, The Reunion. As part of their plea agreement, both Butler and Jackson admitted to firing shots at Capone-N-Noreaga that afternoon.