Judge or­ders rap­per to re­main in lockup

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - LINDA SATTER

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.

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