When The Bro Code And Penal Code Converge
Brooklyn’s Bobby Shmurda, king of summer ’14, will be home sooner than many thought. After some of his G$9 cohorts received as much as 98 years in their conspiracy case, Shmurda and his partner-in-rhyme Rowdy Rebel decided to accept plea bargains for seven year terms. Bobby could have been home in five years, but says he took seven to reduce the 12 year sentence they were initially offering Rowdy.
The internet is abuzz about Bobby’s next-level adherence to the Bro code, for good reason. At a time in which people hardly want to give you $2.00, doing two extra years in jail to see your friend home faster is true loyalty. While scrolling down my social timelines, I saw a bunch of people expressing that sentiment, but few asking the biggest question on my mind: what does Bobby’s penalty for his alleged crimes have to do with Rebel’s?
Why is Rowdy’s fate being hung above Bobby’s head? Do they think the penalty for Bobby’s alleged misdeeds should be seven years or five years? Through these negotiations, New York DA Cyrus Vance figuratively tipped the “scales of justice” to an agreeable level for the state. Their goal was seemingly less about individual accountability and punishment for crimes as much as accruing cumulative man years. They wanted 17 combined, but added two years to Bobby’s term just to get to an acceptable 14. Everyone wants to be “petty,” but circumstances like this are why I hate the celebration of the term.
Those years are just statistics on the DA’s resume. He’s adding years to a life, like it ain’t someone’s life. I know that everybody online is a freelance paralegal (word to Dave Chappelle) who could perfectly explain the permutations of the sentencing guidelines and whatnot, but honestly, forget that. This particular case has been a continuous, high-profile exposé of the flaws of the criminal justice system.
Let’s start with the six bail packages New York denied Bobby. In a February Thisis50 interview, Bobby cited the Emory Law in his claim that his bail shouldn’t have even been $2 million. Bobby’s former lawyer, Kenneth Montgomery, cited problems with the suretor for one of the packages.
Bobby’s aunt was willing to put up four different houses in another one of the packages, but was still denied. If a taxpaying citizen is dangling four properties in expensive-ass New York City—where developers are harassing people for property—why refuse that? Bobby said in the interview, New York wasn’t “trying to give me the [bail] deal because they know if I come home, I’ma beat this.” At the time, he had been offered eight years, which he refused.
Bobby and Rowdy said similar things about the injustice in their recent interview with Complex, repeatedly expressing the racial implications of their case. Bobby noted that the DA’s “only” witnesses were cops who said they “seen us with guns in our hands, but when everything came back there was no DNA, no fingerprints, no nothing.”
Bobby also said the judge looked at them as “Black thugs,” and that his current lawyer advised him that the jury was likely to take the side of the police at trial. That’s entirely plausible, as this is the same city that let officer Pantaleo walk without retribution for a videotaped murder of Eric Garner.
The fact that Bobby was even in jail this long before sparks flew is prime example of the justice system’s tactic of holding people on Rikers Island until they feel compelled to take a plea bargain. A 2015 Huffington Post article noted that 1,500 inmates at the jail were there for over a year without trial. I wonder how many will meet the fate of Carlos Montero, who, as of June 2015, was in jail for seven years and 77 appearances in Manhattan court without trial.
Montgomery told Complex in February 2015 that he had a high suspicion that the primary charges against Bobby were “trumped up” gun charges. It’s already happened to him once before. It’s likely that Bobby was being subject to a prolonged process—and repeated bond denial—in an attempt to break his spirit (a la Kalief Browder) and make him want to take a plea deal. It’s worth noting that they first offered him eight years, and apparently went down to five, until they settled with seven (and five years parole).
The state has a habit of attempting to ensnare high-profile rappers.The NYPD has an infamous “Hip Hop Police” task force, complete with a 500 page-dossier on artists like Jay Z, Fabolous and Busta Rhymes. Mobb Deep’s Prodigy—who did 3 years for gun possession—has said that the NYPD was willing to drop the charges if he would set up 50 Cent on a drug buy and bust. Prodigy also spoke in his My Infamous Life autobiography of an instance of the NYPD detaining him and taking him to the station without a charge or even Miranda rights. Rapper Freddie Foxx recently told a similar story of police baiting him. According to John Potash’s The FBI War Against Tupac And Black Leaders, New York also spent the most money in history in their case against Puff Daddy in the 1999 Club New York Shooting.
With Bobby Shmurda, New York seemed to want one more for the mantle piece, and simply refused to let him from their grips. The NYPD was investigating G$9 for over two years, and seeing the possibility of their ascension before apprehension probably made them want to expedite the arrests. It was easier than ever to ensnare the Flatbush-based crew with conspiracy laws that criminal law professor Babe Howell told The Intercept consists of holding “everyone responsible for the worst thing anyone in their circle has done.”
If Bobby had as big a part to play in the G$9’s crimes as the sensationalist headlines and DA wanted to intimate, it’s likely he would’ve received a fate closer to that of his friends serving what are essentially life terms. Instead, they got him for what they could—standard practice in the midst of mass incarceration. He’s being lauded for the choice he made, but he shouldn’t have even had it presented to him. With time served, Bobby could be out in the early 2020s. Recently, it was announced that the proposed criminal justice reform initiative won’t be seen on the house floor during this session of Congress. Perhaps it will be heard and passed in December. Even then, it’ll be too late for G$9.