San Francisco rapper Mac Minister (born Andre Dow), 37, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder on Monday, in connection with the May 2005 slayings of 24-year-old Anthony "Fat Tone" Watkins and his 22-year-old friend, Jermaine "Cowboy" Akins. Authorities said the murders were the final shots fired in a bloody Midwest/ West Coast rap war.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the District Court jury in Las Vegas found Dow guilty and recommended two life sentences without a chance of parole. He will be formally sentenced on September 24.
Dow, who has worked with Too Short and Snoop Dogg, first made headlines in 2000, when he got into a brawl with fellow Bay Area rapper E-40 at the Source Awards. Though he is somewhat of an underground figure in the larger rap world, his trial drew attention because his witness list included Snoop, who could have been called to testify in Dow's defense. Prosecutors claimed that Dow lured Watkins and Akins to their deaths with the promise of meeting Snoop to discuss a potential concert-promotion gig. But after the trial, one of Dow's attorneys said that upon reviewing the evidence, they didn't feel the need to question Snoop in court.
During the trial, prosecutors said that Dow and an accomplice, 29-year-old Jason Mathis, killed Akins and Watkins as part of a rap war between California rappers and Midwest MCs. Mathis' trial is scheduled to take place in Las Vegas this week. Dow is also accused of killing a potential witness in the case, 21-year-old prostitute Lee Danae Laursen, who had been living with Dow and Mathis. Her car was seen leaving the spot where Watkins and Akins were killed, and two days after their indictment for the murders, she was found shot in the head.
Prosecutors painted the murders of Akins and Watkins as retaliation for the November 2004 killing in Kansas City, Missouri, of Mac Dre (né Andre Hicks), an MC from Vallejo, California. (Read about Mac Dre's influence in the San Francisco hip-hop scene in the MTV News feature My Block: The Bay.) According to the Review-Journal, despite being cleared by police in Mac Dre's death, Watkins was still rumored to be linked to the murder, which was reportedly instigated by a dispute over payment for a concert.
Police said that Watkins and Akins were seen leaving their hotel with Dow hours before they were murdered at a construction site outside of Las Vegas. Dow's attorney said his client and Watkins were friends who had traveled together to pursue their music careers and were not rivals, but close associates. But when the verdict was read, the Review-Journal reported that Akins' mother broke down and cried, saying she was shedding "tears of joy."
Dow's reaction to the verdict after the weeklong trial was described as being more stoic. Once the jurors handed down the sentence, he told them, "God bless you all."
In July 2005, police pulled Dow over near the Golden Gate Bridge and he fled the scene. In his abandoned car, police reportedly found a documentary Dow had produced about his life and an article about the murders of Akins and Watkins. He was arrested a month later by the California Highway Patrol, and subsequently released. In November 2005, he was indicted on two counts of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, but remained at large.
While on the run, a source told MTV News, Dow recorded the intro to the Game's Doctor's Advocate. Shortly after being featured on Fox's "America's Most Wanted," the rapper was finally apprehended by police in a San Francisco apartment in March 2006.