Why is Bobby Shmurda still in jail?
Other acts with similar charges have made bail, but the Brooklyn rapper has gone through three lawyers, had six bail hearings and still remains behind bars
Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda became an overnight sensation when one of his videos became a surprise viral hit, landing him a top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100 and scoring him a deal with Epic Records. He was poised to break out, but before he could prove himself more than a one-hit wonder, he was arrested for crimes linked to his lyrics.
Last December, Shmurda, whose real name is Ackquille Pollard, was indicted alongside members of his GS9 rap crew. His charges included first-degree conspiracy (or intent to commit a class A felony like murder or treason), criminal possession of a firearm, and reckless endangerment. Other members racked up even bigger charges like assault, attempted murder, and second-degree murder. Shmurda could face up to 25 years in prison if found guilty (according to aWashington Post report, the investigation produced 21 guns).
The indictment portrayed GS9 as a criminal enterprise with Pollard as the ringleader. It pegged them as a mini mafia of sorts, roping off New York territory from King’s Highway to East Flatbush, committing murder and trafficking drugs in order to maintain a stranglehold on their turf. The charges revolve around a string of incidents from January 2013 to October 2014, starting with the murder of an unnamed member of GS9’s rival crew, BMW, in a bodega in 2013. According to the indictment, members of GS9 were “arrested in possession of firearms on eight occasions” and there are at least three area shootings linked to the crew, including one of a 22-year-old bystander who was shot in the neck during an attempt on another BMW member’s life.
Pollard has had an eventful stint behind bars since his arrest. In April, he was involved in a gang brawl. A few months later, he and his ex-girlfriend were caught trying to smuggle in a knife. Pollard was charged with promoting contraband and criminal possession of a weapon, which could carry an additional seven-year perjury sentence.
Over the course of his prison stay, he has had something of an attorney carousel. His first defender, Howard Greenberg, who got one of the gun charges dismissedin January (a charge Pollard will still have to face), was replaced after the indictment by Kenneth Montgomery, who stood beside the rapper when he pleaded not guilty on all charges. He was also representing Pollard when herejected an eight-year plea deal. In October, Pollard separated with Montgomery and hired his third attorney, Alex Spiro, who was on hand when the trial got pushed to next year and when his bail was restructured. Little progress has been made by any on the bail front.
According to WebCrims, the online case database of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the New York state unified court system, Pollard is set to appear before the New York supreme court again on 11 January for the felony conspiracy charges from the original indictment. He’s also set to appear before the Bronx supreme court on 16 February for the felony contraband charge. He will likely remain behind bars until then.
But why hasn’t he been able to post bail while he awaits trial? He’s already had six bail hearings since January, which have all proved fruitless. Pairing bits of context from various reports with information provided by Pollard himself, it would appear that he is simply unable to produce the necessary capital.
In an interview conducted from jail with Billboard in February, the rapper laid the situation out pretty plainly: “They don’t have no evidence, no nothing on me for the bill to be so high. I haven’t been out for a year, I haven’t been around for a year. So I didn’t make $2m! [Laughs] They gave me a bill they know I can’t pay. We can pay the 10 percent. And we tried to pay the 10 percent and they told us collateral. And every time we go for bail, it’s something new.”
Back in October, the rapper whose song Hot Nigga went viral told Hot 97 program director Ebro Darden that his bail wasn’t denied, but the petition to have it reduced was, and it’s likely that was again the case at the December hearing. Some have wondered why Epic hasn’t aided the signee they worked so hard to acquire.
In October, LA Reid, the label’s CEO, explained the logistics to Rap Radar: “Bobby Shmurda is not the same as Snoop Dogg and Murder Was The Case, who’s coming off The Chronic and his first album. It’s a different era, you know? And we’re a publicly held corporation. We just aren’t in the same position we were in back in those days.” In the Hot 97 interview, Pollard said he’d had very little contact with the label since his incarceration. Epic Records could not be reached for comment.
There’s a long history of rappers being arrested, and making bail is often an afterthought in such cases. Earlier this year, G-Unit rapper Kidd Kidd was bailed out by label boss 50 Cent on $100,000 bond the same week he allegedly assaulted an ex-girlfriend in a hotel room. Last year, Jeezy was arrested on weapons charges on a Sunday and was released on $1m bail by that Thursday. Rapper Rick Ross was released from jail a week after he was arrested on kidnapping and assault charges, making his $2m bail. After initially being denied bail altogether, Ross’s lawyer convinced the judge otherwise in an additional hearing. His bail situation, which would be considered contentious by usual standards, seems like nothing compared to what Pollard has faced over the course of the past year behind bars.
Pollard’s situation is atypical, to say the least. The one rapper who has experienced similar difficulties is Offset, a member of the group Migos, who remained jailed for months and was denied bail three times after allegedly inciting a prison altercation. But Offset was recently released and Pollard still can’t make any headway.
It’s starting to seem entirely possible that Pollard will remain in prison through both of his trials, which appear on separate dockets in separate courts and may drag out for some time. With bail negotiations continuing to stall, he might sit in a cell through what could potentially be a guilty verdict, which would carry even heftier jail time, even on the lesser counts. It’s easy to boil the situation down to a gangster rapper on the cusp of fame being derailed by his criminal past and abandoned by his label when he needed them most, but that may be reductive given the many variables at play here. This might have been in the works long before his rap success.
It does seem likely, though, that a host of things related to Pollard’s rap career contributed to the situation: His lyrics may have provided the context law enforcement officials needed to connect the dots that led to the indictment; the rapper’s profile produced added scrutiny for his case and put a big price tag on his freedom, and yet being in the early stages of a fledgling career made it nearly impossible to meet the price set on his celebrity. Only time will tell whether or not Hot Nigga will be his last gasp at rap stardom, but one thing is certain: the same gangster lifestyle that fueled the raps and made Shmurda a viral star has now forced him into a corner.
Update: Martin Shkreli, the notorious pharmaceutical representative who purchased the only copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, for $2 million, told HipHopDX that he wants to pay the rapper’s bail. “Forget whether you think he’s guilty or not, the guy should not be sitting in jail right now,” he said. “It’s insane. He’s from Brooklyn. I’m from Brooklyn. He deserves a fair trial. He deserves good lawyers. He doesn’t have good lawyers. His label is hanging him out to dry and so I have a conference call [15 December] morning with them.” But ever on-brand, Shkreli isn’t doing it out of the kindness of his heart: “I’m a fan and I’m a businessman. Look, the guy’s going to have to record for me if he comes out. I’ll just come out and say it … I’m not going to do this for free.”
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