When Lil Wayne took the stage for his first major New York gig in July 2007, the rapper was on the cusp of greatness. With an unmistakable buzz building for his long-delayed Tha Carter III album and an avalanche of well-received mixtape and guest spots, Wayne (born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.) was poised to cement his status as mainstream hip-hop royalty.
But the night ended with a trip to jail after he was arrested on a gun charge following a police search of his bus. Two years later, thanks to DNA evidence reportedly linking him to the weapon, Wayne could be on the cusp of cutting a plea deal that would send him to prison for eight months, according to some unconfirmed reports. The Associated Press reported that the hearings on the DNA matter, which began on Wednesday, are expected to last several days.
How did he get into this predicament? It all started when police pulled over Wayne's tour bus at around 11:30 p.m. on the night of the show at the Beacon Theatre. They arrested the rapper for criminal possession of a weapon — a .40-caliber pistol — and another man on the bus for criminal possession of marijuana. Even before his show that night, Wayne made repeated comments from the stage about being hassled by police prior to his set, and threatened not to perform in New York again.
Following his arraignment, Wayne was released on $70,000 bond on one count of criminal weapons possession and one charge of criminal possession of a loaded weapon that could send him to prison for anywhere from 3 1/2 years to 15 years. At the time, Wayne's lawyer, Stacey Richman, told MTV News that the arrest was puzzling to her.
"He [Wayne] was in the bus in his boxer shorts with a number of other people," she said. "Unless his boxer shorts had a pocket for this gun, I don't understand how he had it on him." Though some reports quoted prosecutors describing a scenario in which Wayne tossed a bag containing the .40-caliber pistol as police entered the bus, Richman said her numerous witness interviews have not confirmed that version of events.
Richman's father and legal partner, famed hip-hop attorney Murray Richman, claimed the arrest was a result of an action by the NYPD's "hip-hop squad," which "staked out the [tour] bus." Murray Richman added that the gun was found in the same area in which Wayne was changing clothes and was a legally registered handgun that did not belong to the rapper. Both attorneys questioned why the other 12 to 20 people on the bus were not arrested along with Wayne, given New York laws that require that everyone in a vehicle with an unclaimed gun be charged if that vehicle is searched by police. At the time, police and prosecutors would not comment on the Richmans' assertions.
At an April hearing, Wayne's lawyers filed a motion asking the court to clear up an alleged inconsistency between the arresting officer's account and that of the detective that filed the police report. Richman questioned the exchange between the arresting officer and Wayne on the rapper's tour bus and why it differed from what was ultimately reported about the matter. There is also the question of whether events in the report unfolded before or after the bus had been stopped. The police contend that they smelled marijuana before they stopped the bus and entered the vehicle, where they eventually discovered an illegal firearm. Wayne's lawyers have asserted that police did not smell marijuana prior to stopping the bus and actually had no reasonable cause to search the bus.
Richman also filed an affidavit that sought to question DNA procedures used by the state to prove that the gun belonged to Wayne or was, in fact, a legal firearm registered to the rapper's manager, Cortez Bryant, as Richman claimed during a previous court date.
Now, after months of delays in the case, that DNA evidence could be the deciding factor in the matter. While Richman could not be reached for comment at press time, AllHipHop.com reported on Wednesday that Wayne, 27, is planning to accept a plea deal that would result in an eight-month jail term. Quoting an anonymous source close to the case, the site said the guilty plea could come as early as Thursday and would have Wayne beginning his bid in February.
The AP reported that the case hinges on a controversial process referred to as low copy number DNA — a highly sensitive method that sometimes uses miniscule amounts of repeatedly processed genetic material to obtain a DNA sample — in order to link Wayne to the gun. The trial on the gun charges is now slated to start on January 20. There is no mention of a plea deal in the AP report.