ATLANTA — A Northern Georgia District judge sentenced [artist id="1225081"]T.I.[/artist] to one year and one day in prison on Friday (March 27) for felony weapons charges stemming from his October 2007 arrest on the eve of the BET Hip-Hop Awards, calling the rapper's plea deal "experimental" but a phenomenal success.
Judge Charles Pannell Jr. told the rapper he had more than exceeded the court's expectations, and he hoped his case would inspire similar plea deals.
"I'm resistant to the lockup mentality," Judge Pannell told the courtroom. "I hope this sentencing leads to other experiments that will protect the community and show a respect for the law."
Tip is scheduled to report to prison voluntarily within the next six to eight weeks. However, the judge acknowledged that the rapper has agreed-upon commitments that will not allow him to enter prison before May 19.
Under the [article id="1584256"]plea deal[/article], T.I. (real name: Clifford Harris) must submit to a number of rigorous requirements after his release from prison. The rapper will be subjected to an audit of his finances, drug counseling, DNA testing and random searches of his property, and he will not be able to own firearms. He will also be under home confinement after his release under the same pre-trial conditions, which included a curfew, permission-only travel and a court-appointed supervisor.
A number of supporters spoke before the judge on behalf of T.I.'s legal team. Bishop Eddie Long said T.I. "deeply impressed" him, citing the [article id="1583968"]rapper's moving Easter speech[/article] delivered to 30,000 of Long's supporters in Atlanta. Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young said he was asked to "help" the rapper by a mutual acquaintance, but that T.I. helped him more than he could ever help the rapper. Young recalled meeting a young Tupac Shakur and how the late rapper agreed to meet the church activist in Atlanta to work together. "Unfortunately, he never made it, due to his death," Young said, hoping the judge would spare T.I. so he could continue to help children in Atlanta.
Shortly before 9:30 a.m., the rapper arrived at the 23rd-floor chamber. His manager, Jason Geter, was present beforehand. The sterile building was largely quiet as federal workers, lawyers and citizens slowly filed in. The courtroom was filled with a mix of teens, curious employees from the building, and the rapper's family, including his longtime partner, Tameka "Tiny" Cottle. A hushed tone overtook the room with T.I.'s entrance. Lawyers and latecomers were still entering.
T.I., wearing a charcoal-gray suit, black dress shirt and matching tie, was greeted warmly by his legal team. His spirits appeared up as he flashed a smile to different people as he scanned the room.
T.I. — who will discuss how he feels about his upcoming jail time on "T.I.'s Road to Redemption: The Reckoning," airing Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on MTV — made a plea deal last March that suggested if he completed 1,000 hours of community service before sentencing, paid a $100,000 fine and agreed to complete another 500 hours of community service after his time behind bars, he would be sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
According to court reports, T.I. has completed 1,030 hours of community service, not counting his MTV show. He's also completed 305 days of his required one-year home confinement. After his release, he will be confined for the rest of the term. He was required to pay a $300 fine immediately and make due on his $100,000 fine.
The plea deal sentence is notable, according to legal experts, because of the specific length. If T.I. were to be sentenced to one year in prison, for example, he would be required to complete the entire sentence. The sentence of one year and one day could allow T.I. to be released earlier for good behavior, if warranted.
T.I. delivered a sober 10-minute speech before his sentencing was officially announced by the judge. In his remarks, he brought up several of his personal contradictions, including his misguided youth and excellent education, his wish to bear arms legally and his inability to do so, and his sorrow at seeing his best friend, [article id="1601816"]Philant Johnson[/article], murdered. He also talked about how the jaded aftermath of Johnson's death led to his troubled behavior.
"This has been the most insightful moment in my life," he concluded. "I've taken the great lesson from it and I will use it in my life. With that, I bid you adieu."
After the 45-minute hearing, the rapper held an impromptu press conference inside the Richard B. Russell Federal Building. He thanked his supporters, his family and his legal team. He then posed for pictures with fans and young children.
MTV News will have more from T.I. today and throughout the weekend, including Sway's exclusive interview with the rapper. Don't miss "T.I.'s Road to Redemption: The Reckoning," airing Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.
[This story was originally published on 03.27.09 at 10:47 a.m. ET]