Arrest Warrant Issued For Def Squad's Keith Murray

Rapper allegedly failed to turn himself in for sentencing Thursday on assault conviction.

Def Squad rapper Keith Murray has been branded a fugitive in Connecticut

after he failed to turn himself in Thursday to begin a prison sentence

on a 1996 assault conviction.

Murray, 26, was scheduled to appear at the New Britain, Conn., courthouse to

begin his three-year sentence for assaulting a teen-age fan with a bar

stool in 1995. On Monday (Sept. 28), the rapper's attorney said he did not

know why his client failed to appear.

"I have not had any direct contact with Keith in well over a month, maybe

two months," said Anthony DiPentima. "I've only had communication to him

through his handlers."

Murray's absence could have "an adverse effect" on his sentence, DiPentima

said. The conviction for the third-degree assault of David Hughes landed

Murray a five-year jail term, which would have been suspended after three

years, with three years' probation.

New Britain police confirmed Monday that a failure-to-appear warrant was in

effect and that Murray was still at large. "He hasn't been picked up yet,"

said a Detective Gannon, who declined to give his first name. Gannon did

not yet know whether state officials have decided to extradite the

Atlanta-based rapper.

Whether Murray now intends to turn himself in is unclear. "I have no idea,"

DiPentima said when asked if Murray plans to report to authorities. "I

sure hope so." Representatives from Jive Records, the label for which

Murray records,

could not be reached for comment.

Murray most recently hit the charts as part of hip-hop's Def Squad with

Erick Sermon (ex-EPMD) and Redman. El Nino, the trio's

critically acclaimed debut album, which included songs such as

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Def_Squad/Check_N'_Me_Out.ram">

"Check N' Me

Out" (RealAudio excerpt), opened at #2 on the Billboard

200 albums chart in July. The band also hit concert stages this summer with

rappers DMX and Onyx as part of the Survival of the Illest tour.

Murray was scheduled to appear before Judge Frank Iannotti at 10 a.m.

Thursday. When he was still a no-show three hours later, the arrest

warrant was ordered.

"The judge imposed a new, $2 million bail," the Hartford Courant

quoted prosecutor Paul Rotiroti as saying.

DiPentima said he was unaware of the new bond for failing to appear.

"There'd be no reason to post bail," he said. "He was supposed to show up

to turn himself in to start his sentence. All he has to do is show up and

begin his sentence. If the state decides that they're going to prosecute

him for not showing up last Thursday, that's a completely separate matter."

Murray's conviction stemmed from a May 24, 1995, bar brawl at a New Britain

nightclub called The Sting. The rapper, on tour to support his solo debut,

The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World (1994), struck the

then-16-year-old Hughes over the head with a metal bar stool. Court

documents say Hughes was attempting to break up a fight between Murray and

Hughes' brother Latif, a local promoter, according to the New Britain

Herald newspaper.

The assault reportedly left the teen-ager, who had gone to the club to see

Murray perform, with a 12-inch scar across his face, crippling headaches and

emotional troubles.

The rapper was sentenced in January 1997 to five years' jail time, which

DiPentima sought to reduce in light of Murray's participation in

anger-management

counseling. On Aug. 5, Connecticut Superior Court Judge

James Graham refused the request for a reduced sentence, prompting the

rapper to appeal for sentence certification from the Connecticut Supreme

Court. The court certified his sentence and Murray was ordered to turn

himself in to begin his prison term.

Murray first appeared on the hip-hop scene with a few raspy-but-smooth

rhymes on Sermon's 1993 solo debut, No Pressure. The Most

Beautifullest Thing in This World first featured Murray with his future

Def Squad bandmates on "How's That."

In 1996, Murray released Enigma, which also featured appearances

from Sermon and Redman. The trio united once again in 1997 to record a

version of the Sugarhill Gang's classic "Rapper's Delight" for the In

Tha Beginning ... There Was Rap compilation of cover songs.

Earlier this year, a representative for Jive Records said Murray is

busy working on three solo albums.