Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Free Lil' Kim

Grammy-winning rapper gets 366 days in prison

NEW YORK (AP) -- Grammy-winning rapper Lil' Kim was sentenced Wednesday to a year and a day in prison and fined $50,000 for lying to a federal grand jury to protect friends involved in a 2001 shootout outside a Manhattan radio station.

While many rappers have served time in prison, Lil' Kim is the first big-name female to do so.

Lil' Kim, whose real name is Kimberly Jones, could have gotten up to 20 years -- five years each on three counts of perjury and one count of conspiracy -- at her sentencing before U.S. District Judge Gerard Lynch. A jury convicted her in March on the charges.

Lil' Kim, who turns 30 next week, was the sidekick and mistress of the late Notorious B.I.G. As a solo artist, she has become known for her revealing outfits and raunchy lyrics. She won a Grammy in 2001 for her part in the hit remake of "Lady Marmalade."

The rapper told the grand jury she did not notice two of her close friends at the scene of the shootout -- her manager, Damion Butler, and Suif Jackson, known as "Gutta." Both have pleaded guilty to gun charges.

Jurors at Lil' Kim's trial saw radio station security photos that depicted Butler opening a door for the rap star, and two witnesses who made records with Lil' Kim said they saw her at the station with Butler and Jackson.

The gun battle happened outside WQHT-FM, known as Hot 97, when Lil' Kim's entourage crossed paths with a rival rap group, Capone-N-Noreaga.

Lil' Kim's group confronted the others about the Capone-N-Noreaga song "Bang, Bang" that contained an insult to Lil' Kim from rival Foxy Brown. One man was hurt in the shootout that followed.

Hot 97 is the same station where the posses of 50 Cent and The Game traded bullets in February.

Falling out with freeloaders
At the trial, Lil' Kim testified that she had a falling out after the shooting with Butler and with Antoine "Banger" Spain and James "Lil' Cease" Lloyd, the two witnesses who said they saw her with Butler and Jackson.

She said they were freeloading at her New Jersey townhouse. "I was just fed up," she told jurors. "They were taking advantage of me."

Her career began with an impromptu street performance for Notorious B.I.G. in their Brooklyn neighborhood. She became "Queen Bee," the only woman in his otherwise all-male clique.

Her 1996 debut album, "Hard Core," was laced with sexually explicit lyrics and became a big hit, thanks to songs like "Crush On You" and others with unmentionable titles.

In other legal problems, two men sued Lil' Kim earlier this year, saying she failed to pay them for songwriting and performing services for the 2003 album "La Bella Mafia," which sold more than 1 million copies.

The rapper arrived at the courthouse Wednesday with bodyguards who cleared her path through the waiting media.

Some fans also were there, proclaiming their support.

One man's T-shirt read "Free Lil' Kim" and "Real Men Don't Snitch."

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