ATLANTA — Throughout
[artist id="1225081"]T.I.'s[/artist] court hearing on Friday morning (March 27), a number of supporters reiterated that the rapper's work with at-risk youth was a reason to show him mercy in his sentencing.
T.I.'s lawyer specifically cited his client's 262 public appearances the past 12 months at various schools, youth groups and churches.
Perhaps no group could better explain the benefits of T.I.'s mentorship than the group of kids he helped on the eight episodes of his show [url id="http://www.mtv.com/ontv/dyn/road_to_redemption/series.jhtml"]"T.I.'s Road to Redemption."[/url]
"It was surprising when he showed up," Donald, who appeared in episode seven, told MTV News about meeting Tip. "It's like, 'T.I.'s in my house right now.' But on the other side of my mind, I'm thinking, 'He's here for a cause, and I did this, so that's why he's here.' And we had to get to work."
Donald and a few other participants were present at the courthouse when T.I.'s sentence became official. The group left with the rapper afterward to share breakfast with him, and later in the evening they're scheduled to attend the Atlanta Hawks basketball game versus the Boston Celtics. Tip is also set to deliver a gift to each of the kids for staying on their straight paths.
"I feel better now [as a person], 'cause a year ago I wasn't even going to school," episode eight's Cynthia said. "I didn't go all last year — I was getting locked up. But now I'm just focused. I'm staying in school, even though it's boring. But I have to do it, because I want to be something in life."
Trey, who appeared in the show's second episode, reflected on his family. His father was recently released from prison and he said together they're helping each other stay on the right path. He also explained how his behavior led to his younger cousins following his negative actions — but now he said it's his responsibility to reverse the course.
"After the show, [people] told me to keep going," Trey said. "At the rate I am [going], I'll be up there, successful [soon]."
The kids didn't seem too fazed by Tip's sentence. They all said his transgressions struck a chord with them because his experience mirrored theirs.
"He's a really cool person and I'm happy he got a good deal [after] what he did," Anthony, who was featured in episode three, said. "I don't think he should go to jail [at all], because he did his thing. But with a lot of guns ... there has to be a consequence. But I know when he gets out he's gonna keep turning around his life like he's been doing."
Anthony's probation officer wrote a letter that T.I.'s lawyer read in court. The letter expressed gratitude toward the rapper for engaging with the at-risk youth and addressed the change she's seen in him.
"What I had back then, I don't got today," Anthony said about his current prospects, which now include working alongside a chef. "And what I do today, I never did back then and wouldn't have thought to, 'cause I was too busy. But I feel a whole lot different. I feel purified. I feel clean and I'm not into my dirty ways anymore."
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.