Hot 107.9 was at the Richard B. Russell Federal Courthouse today where T.I. was sentenced to 11 months in prison for violating his parole after his drug arrest in L.A.
“I screwed up,” said the ATL rapper (born Clifford Harris, Jr.), wearing a three-piece gray suit. “I screwed up bigtime, and I’m sorry. I want drugs out of my life. If I can get treatment and counsling I need, I can beat this. I have been sincere in my message to kids, that guns, gangs and drugs threaten your life, and I mean it. I’ve been a kid. I’ve lived the same life that those kids have. As I discovered in talking to my PO I had many problems from my childhood. Now I am down to the disease of addiction. I need help. For me, my mother my kids. I need the court to give me mercy. Judge, don’t send me back to prison.”
Despite T.I.’s plea, U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell Jr. said the rapper “has had about the limit of second chances.”
“The worst thing is this case was an experiment,” said Pannell, alluding to the rapper’s previous unprecedented sentence of a year and a day in prison for his 2007 arrest on federal weapons charges.
R&B star Monica and Tiny’s wife Tameka “Tiny” Cottle were among the people in the courtroom. The court was so packed that Def Jam executive Kevin Liles, Grand Hustle’s Jason Geter and members of T.I.’s family could not get in, although the rapper’s sister was eventually allowed in.
People taking the stand included Officer James Polite, who testified how T.I. helped talk a suicidal man safely down from a Midtown building on Wednesday.
T.I. reportedly has two weeks to report to prison. It has not been determined yet where he will serve his time, but his legal team requested that it be in Georgia and not in the federal prison in Arkansas where he previously served time.
Judge Pannell said that decision was up to the Bureau of Prisons, but added he would recommend T.I. serve his time in Georgia.
While still expressing hope for T.I., U.S. Attorney Sally Yates recommended that T.I. be sent back to prison for two years.
“Through his community service he reached kids and made a real difference,” she said. “But after the halfway house, he violated the law again, and submitted diluted urine samples, which coincide when he admitted to the probation officer he had been using ecstasy during that time. He lied a number of times upon arrest about the ecstasy found in his pants. While he was telling kids to obey the law, he was breaking it. Our office saw this agreement as positive and proactive, but there has to be a significant consequence for undermining the agreement.”
Steve Sadow, T.I.’s lawyer, had asked that Harris be given at least six months of home confinement during which he would attend an inpatient drug rehabilitation program.
“We did not find a single case out of 247 in 10 years of simple possession, where the probation violator went back to jail,” argued Don Samuel, who presented evidence from the witness stand, under Q and A, a format the defense asked for and the judge agreed to.
One of T.I.’s lawyers, Ed Garland, explained that the rapper had been taking oxycodone after undergoing 7 root canals and 2 extractions following his release from prison in May.
“This summer Harris worked a grueling 24 [city] tour schedule and began drinking a drink of cough syrup and soda, which gave him the same feeling as his old pills which he ran out of,” explained Garland. “He started off the wagon, like an alcoholic. That’s what happened to this young man , so he failed his commitment, with drugs that relaxed him in his schedule.”
Following his sentence, T.I. emerged from the courtroom holding a Bible and exchanged hand shakes and hugs with supporters and family.