A judge dropped charges Monday against a San Diego rapper accused of benefitting from gang crimes because of his music, KNSD-TV reported.
Brandon Duncan, who performed as Tiny Doo, had faced life in prison if convicted of the nine felonies, which related to shootings that took place in 2013 and 2014. Duncan did not pull the trigger or have knowledge of the shootings, both sides agreed. Prosecutors instead filed charges because they said his music encouraged gang activity.
The charges came from an unusual California law that expanded the definition of conspiracy.
Voters in 2000 passed Proposition 21, which states that anyone who "promotes, furthers, assists, or benefits" criminal gang activity is guilty of conspiracy. To prosecutors, Duncan's music as well as album art showing a revolver and bullets promoted gang activity.
Duncan told BuzzFeed News he had 100 copies of the album professionally pressed, but he didn't make any money off it. He gave a number of copies away to friends.
The charges sparked outrage. Duncan had no criminal history, and his lawyer said his status as a "documented gang member" came simply from living in a neighborhood where gang activity was common. Others questioned the impact the case could have on free speech of other musicians.
Supporters rallied at the San Diego courthouse in February, and the case gained national media attention.
Duncan was first arrested in June 2014 and served months in custody after being unable to make the initially posted $1 million bail. His bail was later lowered to $50,000 and he was reunited with his girlfriend and children.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News before the charges were dropped, Duncan defended his music. Though he may have grown up in a rough neighborhood, Duncan said living among gang members didn't make him a criminal.
"I talk about what I talk about in my music because that's what, you know, I know," he said.
Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Koerner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jim Dalrymple II at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.