Judge orders rapper to remain in lockup
After hearing testimony Monday about rapper Ricky Hampton’s 10-year history of run-ins with the law and viewing several videos of him with a gun, a federal judge ordered him to remain in custody until his trial on a federal gun charge.
Hampton, 25, is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in connection with an incident early June 25 outside a club in Forrest City where he had just finished performing. Cellphone videos captured him standing in the doorway of a car, holding an AK-47-style pistol, screaming at a woman who was frantically trying to move her car out of the way of his entourage, which was moving toward her. Just after she turned her car around and began to leave, the rear window of her car was shattered and she was grazed in the neck by a bullet.
She contends Hampton fired the shot, telling police she saw him aim the gun directly at her. Hampton denies he fired the gun.
A week later, a shootout at the Power Ultra Lounge in downtown Little Rock while Hampton was onstage resulted in injuries to 25 people, two of whom required hospital stays. Hampton’s
bodyguard and longtime friend, Kentrell Dominique Gwynn, also 25 and from Memphis, is the only person charged so far in that case. He pleaded innocent last week to federal charges of providing a firearm to a convicted felon, providing armed security to a convicted felon and conspiring to commit those crimes.
Hampton and Gwynn were both arrested July 2, the night after the Little Rock shooting, when they arrived in Birmingham, Ala., for a scheduled performance at the Side Effects nightclub.
Hampton pleaded innocent last week to federal charge but also faces state charges of aggravated assault in the Forrest City shooting outside Club Envy. He appeared again Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Kearney after posting bond to be released from the St. Francis County jail into federal custody.
Defense attorney Nicole Lybrand of the federal public defender’s office asked Kearney to release Hampton, who performs under the stage name Finese2Tymes, under the supervision of his pregnant girlfriend, 27-yearold Audrey Webb, until his trial. The trial is tentatively set for Aug. 21 but is likely to be delayed.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Mazzanti, who is prosecuting Hampton’s federal case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Givens, told the judge that Hampton’s history, beyond the two 2010 aggravated robbery convictions that made him a felon who could no longer possess firearms, shows that his release could be dangerous to the public.
As Hampton sat listening in street clothes — a colorful blue, red and yellow shirt bearing an unknown emblem, and long red shorts that were pulled down, baggy-pantsstyle, to reveal under-layers of white, turquoise and green — Mazzanti presented testimony from Warren Newman, an agent with the local office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Newman showed the judge several recent videos — some from YouTube, some from Facebook and some from bystanders’ mobile phones — in which Hampton held or stood beside a gun.
They included a video posted June 27 that Newman said was taken at a corner in Marianna that is “a known thug’s hangout.” It shows Hampton, with the same AK47-style pistol used in Forrest City, riding with Gwynn in the E-500 Mercedes in which they were later arrested in Alabama. There are references in the video to Moneybags Joe, another Memphis rapper with whom Newman said Hampton has been involved in an ongoing feud.
“There were several incidents in which those groups exchange gunfire,” Newman testified.
Numerous gunshots could be heard in one video played in the courtroom that Newman said was posted online under the heading “Finese 2Tymes/Money Bags Joe shootout.”
Newman testified that just last week in the federal courthouse, as Hampton and Gwynn were being escorted to and from their back-t0back hearings in Kearney’s courtroom, Hampton approached Gwynn and “got up in his face and said something to him.”
He said Gwynn was “visibly upset” afterward. “I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said Mr. Hampton had put a hit out on him.”
After objections from Lybrand, Kearney said he would disregard the remark.
Newman also testified about several references to Hampton in Memphis police reports dating back to 2007. Among them were reports that Hampton was a suspect in home burglaries and in individual robberies in which a shotgun was used.
In 2013, Newman said, Hampton was accused of hitting a woman in the head with a beer bottle. In 2014, he was accused of assaulting a woman and leaving visible red marks on her face. In another 2014 report, he was accused of pushing a woman he had been dating and firing a shot into the air.
In 2016, while Hampton was incarcerated, he was accused of making a phone call to a woman, threatening to kill her and her family, the agent said. Newman said that another time in 2016, a woman reported that her .40-caliber handgun had been stolen from her home, and that Hampton, her ex-boyfriend, was the only person who had been there.
On Aug. 23, 2014, Newman said, Hampton told police that he had been a member of the Vice Lords gang since he was a a kid, and that he was still active in the gang.
Under cross-examination, Newman acknowledged that none of the videos showed Hampton actually shooting a gun, and that the rapper’s only prior convictions were the two armed robbery convictions, for which he was imprisoned until Aug. 23, 2016.
Mazzanti argued that Newman’s testimony and the videos show that Hampton “is a violent individual, and that he has no regard for the law.”
She said the court was aware of unspecified “mental health information,” which she didn’t discuss further.
Lybrand argued that her client “is a rapper, and as a result, I think there is a degree of puffery and image involved in that lifestyle.” She said the postings of Hampton with a gun were made “to present a certain image.”
Kearney cited the instances in which Hampton clearly possessed a gun after his felony convictions, the fact that the Forrest City woman was struck by a bullet fragment, and Hampton’s history of arrests and convictions since age 15, as “heavy evidence that he is a danger to the community,” and should be detained until trial.
Meanwhile, Lybrand has asked that she be allowed to continue as Hampton’s court-appointed attorney. Although last week the rapper said on a form that he made $40,000 a month, Lybrand said that was projected income, and that Hampton no longer has any assets, having used all his funds “toward his bond in state court.”
It wasn’t clear Monday how much of the $200,000 bond he was required to post in St. Francis County, though typically a defendant must post 10 percent.
Kearney said a court examination of whether Hampton qualifies for a court-appointed attorney is still under way.