Busta Rhymes Charged For Alleged Assault; Released On Bail

Rapper charged in connection with alleged attack on former driver; could be punished with one year in jail.

Busta Rhymes turned himself in to police on Wednesday in New York and was arrested and charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault in connection with an alleged attack on his former driver.

The driver, whose name was not released by police, told authorities that Rhymes, 34, (born Trevor Smith) assaulted him outside a building in Lower Manhattan on December 26 during an argument over money, punching him in the face, according to New York Police Department Detective John Sweeney.

Rumors of Rhymes' imminent arrest had been building for a week, and his lawyer said the rapper planned to turn himself in when he returned from a Christmas vacation trip outside the country. Upon his return, Rhymes appeared at a police station in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday evening with his attorney and was promptly arrested and booked.

He was formally charged Thursday (January 4) with third-degree misdemeanor assault by Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Neil Ross, who put bail at $3,500 and set February 20 as the next court date in the case. The charge could carry a penalty of up to a year in jail. Lawyer Scott Leemon confirmed that Rhymes was released from custody Thursday afternoon after paying bail and stressed that the rapper denies the allegations and is confident he will be exonerated.

It's the latest legal tangle for Rhymes, who was charged with assault in August following a performance at the AmsterJam show in New York, where he allegedly kicked a 19-year-old man in the head because the man spit on his car (see "Lawyer Claims Busta Rhymes Arrest Is 'Payback' "). Prosecutors offered Rhymes a reduced sentence of six months on the charge, which he rejected. He was also ticketed by police in November when they saw him talking on his cell phone while driving past a Manhattan police station. And in December, Rhymes was charged with a misdemeanor weapons count for a machete police said they found in his car during the August arrest.

Though officials did not release the name of the driver in the latest case, the New York Post earlier reported that his name is Eddie Hatchett, 39, who claimed in a complaint filed on December 27 that he visited Rhymes at his office on the evening of December 26 to request back pay he said he was owed by the rapper. When confronted by Hatchett, Rhymes allegedly became violent, the Post reported, punching the driver in the face several times and causing a laceration that required a trip to the hospital.

[This story was originally published at 7:30 a.m. ET on 1.4.2007]