Slick Rick Pardoned By New York Governor Thanks To ‘Exemplary’ Record

The formerly flashy rap star has earned back his freedom after more than a decade.

Hip-hop pioneer Slick Rick was given a full pardon Friday (May 23) by New York Governor David Patterson, most likely ending a deportation threat that has hung over the rapper for 11 years. According to The New York Times, Governor Patterson delivered the pardon to prevent the MC from being deported to England, where he was born and lived until the age of 11.

In 1991, Slick Rick (Ricky Walters) was convicted of attempted murder and weapons charges after he shot and injured his cousin and an acquaintance. Rick served five years and 12 days in prison before being paroled in 1997, but a law that threatens to deport immigrants convicted of aggravated felony or weapons charges had always loomed large.

In 2002, Slick Rick was arrested aboard a docked Caribbean cruise ship — by the INS, who had been fighting for his deportation since 1995. He spent a year in an immigration detention center in Bradenton, Florida, before a judge ruled he could go free in 2003 . (MTV News spoke with him shortly after his release.)

In administering the pardon, Governor Patterson noted that Slick Rick had served his sentence, had earned an “exemplary” record while in prison and on parole, and had lived in the community without incident for over 10 years. He also cited Slick Rick’s community service and the fact that deportation would separate Rick from his wife and two teenage children, who are all American citizens.

Slick Rick was 25 years old at the time of the incident and one of hip-hop’s biggest — and flashiest — stars, recognizable as much for his immeasurable amount of jewelry as he was for his iconic eye patch (he’s blind in his right eye as a result of an injury as an infant).

Technically, Slick Rick is not completely free of the threat of deportation. He still must get approval from immigration courts for an “adjustment of status” that would remove the threat, but the chances of it being granted have increased dramatically with the governor’s pardon. Immigration courts originally decided to adjust his status in 1995 but vacated the decision due to a technicality.