Khujo Goodie can crack a joke now, but a little over a week ago, his predicament was no laughing matter. The eldest member of legendary rap group the Goodie Mob was in a Henry County, Georgia, jail serving a sentence of five years, where he would have to be incarcerated for around two before he could get out.
"Henry County means 'Hanging Every N---a Real Young," Khujo said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, just 24 hours after he was released from prison last Tuesday. "That's what I found out Henry County stands for."
Khujo, born Willie Knighton Jr., spent 42 days in jail — 23 hours a day in lockdown — for three counts of being a convicted felon in possession of firearms. He had to walk around on crutches because part of his right leg was amputated after a 2002 car accident. The Atlanta veteran says his arrest and jail time was a major misunderstanding, a result of the correctional system bungling his paperwork.
"I was on probation in 1990, got off in 1993," Khujo explained. "But Fulton County never put it through in the computer and never let them know I was all good. I had them firearms back when [Goodie Mob] dropped our first album, when we got our first check. You now how us country boys do, we got to have some rifles. So I'm thinking, I must be Gucci, all good. That was 15, 16 years, almost 20 years ago."
Last summer, Khujo went to sell some of his firearms at a pawn shop and the authorities were alerted.
"The Feds was on me," Khujo said. "They thought I was a gun-runner. I was like, 'Why you wanna f--- with me?' They was like, 'T.I., guns! Soulja Boy, guns!' And they said, 'Khujo Goodie [guns!].' Although Khujo's gun case wound up not being pursued federally, the Henry County prosecutors stayed active. Khujo was already going back and forth for an unrelated case, and with his probation situation still not cleared up, Khujo was faced with two choices: going to trial on his gun charges and facing 15 years or plea out and be sentenced to five years, with the likelihood of getting out in two.
"I didn't think it was gonna get cleared up, man," Khujo said with candor. "I was down at Fulton County trying to get that situation squared away. Once I got it cleared up, I thought I was all Gucci. I thought I was all good. But it turned out they had somebody else's name on the paperwork and they had the date wrong.
"I knew my court date was coming up," he added. "I was thinking about Tip, [Lil] Wayne, Boosie, all them boys that went in. I was like 'these n---as did a year, f--- it, man.' I thought I was gonna do two to the door."
There is no such thing as a good time to go to jail, but Khujo's legal woes came at a very inopportune time. Goodie Mob recently released a mixtape and the members were in the midst of recording their reunion album. Khujo also has a book he was planning to release. His group didn't know his situation was that dire until it was almost too late.
"In all honesty, Khujo is a man's man and very private and prideful about the ordeal," his Goodie Mob partner Cee-Lo said. "I remember going through a stint of him going back and forth to court, then him getting there and it being prolonged and postponed for quite a while. Our attitude had become complacent with it. Even on the day they decided to detain him, I'd be talking to him the night before, and [he's] telling me he was going to pick out his jewelry. He drove himself to court. He ended up being detained to everyone's dismay. So we weren't even aware of it until that day. He called and said, 'They got me.'
"That's our rock, our Iron Man, Khujo named Goodie Mob," Cee-Lo added, explaining why the group mates were devastated upon learning the news. "That's big bro to all of us. I'm the baby. We try our best to support each other."
Not only did Cee-Lo call in his own lawyer, as well as attorney Daniel Kane, who wound up taking the lead, but Outkast's Big Boi also called in legal counsel, while Big Gipp and T-Mo Goodie and other members of the Dungeon Family rallied for their brother.
"It was very disheartening for it to take place at all," Cee-Lo described. "But it was a blessing because I saw a miracle take place. It assured me that God had his hands and feet and heart all in this situation."
Last Tuesday, during a hearing for the case, after both sides presented their case, the judge told the courtroom he wanted to get "creative," according to Cee-Lo.
"The D.A. did make quite an impressive presentation of his point," Cee-Lo said. "He spoke very clearly and articulately. I was like, 'Oh, my God.' That's when it dawned on me, it didn't matter about the money; it didn't matter about anything. If they saw to it that Khujo should remain for the remainder of the sentence, it would have been law."
What the judge came up with was letting Khujo out of jail, on one condition: The Goodie Mob had to perform for and talk to the youth at sanctioned events.
"They asked were we interested in doing that, [and] I said, 'We'll do that today. Just get him outta here.' You feel me?" Cee-Lo recalled. "It was cool. We came back in, I knew it was success. I felt completely happy and satisfied. The sun was shining so bright. It was overwhelming. My body felt like I was trembling beneath the surface of my skin. I couldn't calm down."
"We're talking about going into the schools, getting drug-awareness programs going. Maybe doing a show for the kids," Khujo added. "If it's for the community, believe it or not, that's what we do."
Having his brother out was almost too overwhelming for Cee-Lo. "It'll be commemorated as a modern-day miracle," Cee-Lo said. "The sun was shining. All of a sudden it got hot. Everybody was there to support, his wife and family. The Mob was there, Big Boi came. It was a pleasure to see him. I know he's riding ride on a successful solo album. To walk in and just see family was just very ... it was calming."
Khujo said when he was released he went straight to his home. "I got four boys and my wife. I went back to the house, man. They're about to start school next month."
Khujo's case is still not over though. He has to return court on August 3 to be re-sentenced. Henry County District Attorney Tommy K. Ford did not return MTV News' phone calls requesting comment by press time.
"It was a learning experience," Khujo said. "I had a chance to get all the trash out of my mind, do some thinking."