Sentenced to 24 months behind bars, 6ix9ine's case is an anomaly in not only his cooperation, but the sentence he's received.
On the cusp of a new decade, one of the marquee stories of recent years has finally come to an end. A judiciary drama that has left both the rapper’s formerly ardent supporters and longtime haters watching with baited breath, Tekashi 6ix9ine— now known as simply Daniel Hernandez— has finally received his court-decreed fate.
In a blockbuster case the likes of which is rarely seen, Tekashi’s decision to turn state’s evidence and lay out the inner-workings of the Nine Trey Bloods— who first entered his life in the capacity of imposing extras for the “GUMMO” video— had led many to believe that he could actually walk away from the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse and recommence his life. Having refuted the possibility of entering the witness protection program in order to continue his music career, the sum total of what Judge Paul A. Engelmayer bestowed on Hernandez was 24 months behind bars, five years of supervised release and 300 hours of community service upon re-entering society. As a parting shot, Judge Engelmayer imposed a $35,000 fine on the formerly Billboard-dominating artist.
6ix9ine's estranged father, Daniel Hernandez and his girlfriend, outside Manhattan federal courthouse on December 18, 2019 in New York City- Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images
Charged with a laundry list of offenses that included racketeering, drug trafficking, carrying a firearm, assault with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy murder charges-- not to mention armed robbery allegations that arose while the trial was already underway, getting off with two years in prison would’ve been a coup in itself. But as it turns out, the pot has been sweetened for Tekashi once more. Speaking after the proceedings had come to an end, lead attorney Lance Lazarro claimed that in all likelihood, Hernandez— who was initially staring down the barrel of 47 years of hard time— could be pounding the pavement before 2021.
"We are a little disappointed, we were expecting time served because that is what the parole board recommended, but it was in the judge's hands," said Lazarro. "Daniel will have to serve another 7 months and 12 days because the time he’s already served will count towards his sentence. The best thing to come out of today was closure, he knows he’ll be home in July and then he can focus on rebuilding his career and relationships."
Despite their premature celebrations about Tekashi walking free, Judge Engelmayer explained that his deeds in the name of the Nine Trey couldn’t go unpunished, stating "I've considered other 5k sentences, in gang violence. 13 months is outside the mainstream." On the other side of the coin, he acknowledged that Hernandez’s decision to be forthcoming with incriminating information had stood him in good stead. "You were wise to cooperate. Your cooperation will result in years more liberty…You met with the government 26 times, reviewing social media messages and decoding them. Your cooperation enabled the government to take down a violent gang, beyond the six including you named in the initial indictment. I have no doubt that the process of cooperation has for you been cathartic," Engelmayer continued. "For all these reasons you deserve a very substantial reduction and you will receive it."
Within criminal networks, there’s always the outside chance that someone’s nerve will waver in order to save their own skin. But in the world of hip-hop— in which cooperation with the police has been portrayed as tantamount to a cardinal sin— 6ix9ine getting off relatively scot-free puts us in uncharted territory. Yes, there have been allegations made against figures such as Jimmy Henchman and Capone but until now, a rapper with this level of cultural visibility turning informant is completely unheard of. In the wake of the news that he’ll be out next year, it’s time to contextualize this sentence in comparison to the plight of other rappers that have borne the brunt of the penal system. And in doing so, it’ll take the influence of his decision to act as informant from conjecture and make the cold, hard facts there for all to see.
First off, let’s look at the extreme end of the spectrum. Once faced with four decades of institutionalization, a refusal to cooperate could’ve landed Tekashi with a future that resembles that of Corey Miller. Better known as No Limit’s C-Murder, the Louisianan rapper and brother of Master P was sentenced to life in prison for the shooting of 16-year old Steve Thomas and despite grounds for a mistrial, a witness recanting their evidence and Miller’s persistent pleas of innocence, he remains in an 8 x 10 cell to this day. With his attempts at an appeal regularly spurned, fellow No Limit soldier Silkk Da Shocker has long since maintained that his provocative rap name played a material role in convincing the judge that he deserved to be behind bars. On the flip side, 6ix9ine’s decision to turn in the gang members that kidnapped him and robbed him resulted in relative absolution of his involvement in their operations and made the previous attempts to use his music as evidence all but redundant.
Meek Mill participates in a rally before he returns to court for a post-conviction appeal on June 18, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images
While Miller’s scenario and the ongoing legal proceedings against YNW Melly or Tay-K hinge around murder, there are other cases in which the 2 years or, more accurately, 13 months that 6ix9ine will serve seems like a pittance when you consider what other MCs received for similar or even lesser offences. Stemming from a drug dealing conviction that he’d received back in 2008, the plight of Meek Mill is one that attests to just how merciful the criminal process has been to Tekashi in exchange for his assistance. Vocal in his criticism of 6ix9ine as an “internet gangsta” that ended up in over his head, November 2017 saw the Pennsylvanian MC receive 2-4 years in prison for violating his parole.
Hailing from South Central, one artist whose litany of offences mirrored those levelled at Tekashi is 03 Greedo. Apprehended on gun and drug trafficking charges that aren’t a million miles from the ones that the New York native found himself facing, Greedo received a 20-year sentence in relation to the bust in Potter County, Texas-- essentially forced into taking a plea deal, in order to avoid 300 years behind bars.
Gucci Mane, police booking photo after his arrest for probation violations when he failed complete the required community service for a 2005 aggravated assault charge September 13, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia - Fulton County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images
Although he’s since claimed that the spell in jail saved him from his crippling drug dependencies, Gucci Mane pleaded guilty to firearms charges and received three years and three months in 2014. A move that enabled him to avoid a prospective 2 decade stretch in the system, South Florida’s Kodak Black is also currently serving a 3-and-a-half-year bid after falsifying information on a gun application. Purportedly “laced with an unknown substance” and beaten at the Miami Federal Detention Center, 6ix9ine’s testimony has ensured that he’ll be home and possibly back in the booth even before Bill K Kapri goes on to face the sexual misconduct case that’s pending in South Carolina.
However, if any comparative situation captures the incongruently generous treatment that 6ix9ine has received, it’s the case of the man behind “Hot N***a” himself, Bobby Shmurda. Initially facing a maximum of 25 years for conspiracy and unlawful firearm charges after he’d already spent over 600 days in custody, both the Brooklyn-based artist and his two co-defendants accepted a plea deal that would grant them seven long years of imprisonment. Featured on 6ix9ine’s frenetic single “Stoopid” from jail, Shmurda— real name Ackquille Jean Pollard— has since proclaimed that he’d point blank refuse to work with him again amid the news that he’d turned informant. "I don’t even want to be next to that man—I’m good,' he informed DJ Vlad via phone call in March. "These motherfuckers would have everybody locked up. That’s why I tell these kids, too: These entertainers they just entertainers. They ain’t living that shit they be talking."
Bobby Shmurda backstage at Power 105.1's Powerhouse 2014 - Brad Barket/Getty Images
With Shmurda now eligible for release on December 11th 2020 and 6ix9ine expected to be freed towards the latter half of the year, it seems inherently jarring that they’ll be let back into society at the same time despite Shmurda already dwelling in the penitentiary for the better part of a decade.
Where others have copped pleas and pleaded guilty in exchange for more lenient sentences, the crucial difference between them and the Billboard-charting artist behind Dummy Boy is their levels of cooperation. With 6ix9ine claiming that he had a “feeling of relief” upon being removed from the Nine Trey Bloods’ clutches, his decision to divulge details that’s led to prosecutions has granted him a second chance at life. With the possibility of over 40 years in jail off his chest, Daniel Hernandez will return to the outside world in 2020, likely spawning a media circus in the process. However, what remains to be seen is how the hip-hop landscape will receive him when he tries to pick up from where he’d left off.