In a surprise turn, Grammy-winning rapper Lil Wayne pleaded guilty Thursday to a reduced weapons charge in a gun case that he has been fighting for two years, and will spend a year in prison. The platinum album artist entered the plea as part of a deal with prosecutors to avoid a jury handing down a stiffer sentence had his case gone to trial.
The rapper, born Dwayne Carter, originally pleaded not guilty after being charged with criminal gun possession charges in July 2007 when his tour bus was pulled over by NYPD officers in Columbus Circle following a concert.
Arguably rap’s most popular artist, Lil Wayne somberly answered
his judge’s questions with “yes, sir” and “no, sir” as he
pleaded guilty to a felony charge of attempted criminal possession
of a weapon.
As late as Wednesday, he was involved in pretrial hearings for a Jan. 10 trial date. He faced a minimum of 3 1/2 years in prison and up to 7 years had he gone to trial and been convicted.
Police said they smelled marijuana wafting from the bus door before it left the Beacon Theatre moments earlier, and claimed that Lil Wayne, 27, tossed a Louis Vuitton bag containing a loaded handgun that prosecutors say was later found to have his DNA.
Defense attorney Stacey Richman had argued the gun wasn't Lil Wayne's, and the testing technique used to lift her client's DNA was too problematic to prove otherwise. Richman also disputed officers' reasons for searching the bus and noted that more than a dozen other people were aboard.
A trial had been due to start Jan. 20, and as late as Wednesday, Judge Charles Solomon had been holding a hearing on a debated DNA profiling technique used to tie the rapper to the gun.
The artist won last year's best rap solo performance Grammy for "A Milli." A member of the rap group Hot Boys, he began a prolific solo career when he was 17, producing six full-length albums that include "Tha Carter," "Tha Carter II" and "Tha Carter III."
Sentencing is scheduled for February. Until then, he remains free on bail, and must appear before Solomon in December to revisit his bail.
With The Associated Press