Lil Wayne, Kodak Black get clemency; Joe Exotic does not
Rappers among dozens of pardons issued by former U.S. President Donald Trump on final day of presidency
Two rappers were among the entertainment figures included in a list of 140 people who were pardoned or had their sentences commuted by former U.S. President Donald Trump in a last-minute clemency flurry early Wednesday. But the news was not as good for one hopeful celebrity.
Rapper Lil Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., was given a full pardon. The Grammy-winner was charged in Florida on Nov. 17, 2020 with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a federal offence that carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison. In the pardon, Lil Wayne was praised for his "commitment to a variety of charities, including donations to research hospitals and a host of foodbanks." Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders backed the pardon.
Lil Wayne is one of the seminal figures in rap in the last two decades, selling more than 20 million albums in the U.S. since releasing his debut in 1999. Sentencing for the rapper, who frequently expressed support for Trump, was set for Jan. 28, 2021. In a statement, Carter's lawyer Howard Srebnick said a pardon was appropriate since "prosecuting a non-violent citizen for merely possessing a firearm violates the Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution."
Rapper Kodak Black, born Bill K. Kapri, was granted a commutation. The Tunnel Vision rapper is serving a three-year prison sentence for falsifying documents used to purchase weapons at a Miami gun store. Supporters included Gucci Mane, Lil Pump, Lil Yachty, and athletes Lamar Jackson and Jack Brewer.
Kodak Black has sold over 30 million singles since 2014, and has had several multiplatinum and platinum-certified singles, including Zeze, No Flockin' and Roll in Peace.
His lawyer, Bradford Cohen, was once a contestant on Trump's Celebrity Apprentice show. The pardon notes that Kodak Black paid for schoolchildren's notebooks, supplies to daycare centres and food for the hungry, and donated $50,000 US for restaurants in his hometown of Pompano Beach, Fla.
Desiree Perez, CEO of Roc Nation, was granted a full pardon. Perez was arrested in 1994 for drug possession, and in 1998 for grand larceny and possession of a firearm. In 2019, she was named head of the entertainment company founded by rapper Jay-Z that's home to such artists as Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Megan Thee Stallion.
The pardon mentions that "Perez has taken full accountability for her actions and has turned her life around. She has been gainfully employed and has been an advocate for criminal justice reform in her community."
Tiger King's Joe Exotic had hoped for good news, but it was not to be. The zookeeper-turned-reality-TV-star was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for his role in a failed murder-for-hire plot. His team was so confident in a pardon that they'd readied a celebratory limousine and a hair and wardrobe team to whisk him away from a Texas prison.
But he wasn't on the list announced Wednesday morning. Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was prominently featured in the popular Netflix documentary Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
Maldonado-Passage's backers, who referred to themselves as "Team Tiger," said in a statement Wednesday that "140 million Joe Exotic fans had a hard time getting out of bed this morning."
"We are as disappointed that the president did not sign Joe's pardon, as we were confident yesterday that he would," the statement said.