NEW YORK — Rap diva Lil’ Kim was convicted Thursday of lying to a federal grand jury to protect friends who were involved in a shootout outside a radio station.
Lil’ Kim was convicted of three counts of perjury and one of conspiracy, but acquitted of obstruction of justice. She is likely to be sentenced to several years in prison — a maximum of five years for each count — at her June 24 sentencing.
The former sidekick and mistress of the late Notorious B.I.G., known for her revealing outfits and raunchy raps, testified that she didn’t notice two close friends at the scene of the 2001 gun battle — her manager, Damion Butler, and Suif “Gutta” Jackson. Both men have since pleaded guilty to gun charges.
The jury saw radio station security photos showing Butler opening a door for Lil’ Kim. And witnesses Antoine “Banger” Spain and James “Lil’ Cease” Lloyd, who once made hit records with Lil’ Kim in the group Junior M.A.F.I.A, testified that Butler and Jackson were at the station with her.
Lil’ Kim and her assistant, who also was convicted, shook their heads as the verdicts were delivered, and supporters broke out in sobs. While many rappers have gone to prison, Lil’ Kim, 29, would be the first big-name female to do time.
Asked outside court whether she had any comment, Lil’ Kim, wearing a beige pantsuit and a pink jacket, shook her head and said no. “We love you,” a bystander shouted.
She later issued a statement saying she was “disappointed” in the verdict.
“However, I was acquitted of the most serious charge, obstruction of justice,” she said. “Throughout my life, I have always lived with adversity and will continue to have faith and do good for my family, friends and fans.”
She has an album scheduled for release later this year.
Rival rap groups clash
The shootout occurred outside WQHT, known as Hot 97, when Lil’ Kim’s entourage crossed paths with a rival rap group, Capone-N-Noreaga. Kim’s entourage confronted them about the song “Bang, Bang” from a Capone-N-Noreaga album, which contained a scathing insult to Kim from her longtime rival, Foxy Brown. A shootout erupted, leaving one man injured and more than two dozen rounds fired.
Hot 97 is the same station where the posses of 50 Cent and The Game traded bullets last month. No arrests have been made in that shooting, which left one of Game’s henchmen wounded in the leg.
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Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathy Seibel told jurors that the 4-foot-11 Lil’ Kim, born Kimberly Jones, had repeatedly lied to them, just as she did to the grand jury. The prosecutor belittled the defense claim that the sunglasses-wearing Lil’ Kim didn’t notice her two close friends at the scene of the crime.
“You would have to believe they were magic sunglasses that only block out your friends who were shooting people,” Seibel told the jury.
Defense lawyer Mel Sachs argued that Lil’ Kim had no reason to protect Butler and Jackson because she had already eliminated them from her life.
Lil’ Kim testified that after the shooting she had a falling out with Butler, Banger and Cease because they were freeloading at her New Jersey town house. She said she decided to cut off Butler completely after he caused a ruckus outside a video shoot with Phil Collins.
“I was just fed up,” she said on the stand. “They were taking advantage of me.”
Lil’ Kim’s assistant, Monique Dopwell, was convicted of perjury and conspiracy. She faces up to 15 years in prison.
The rapper also testified at length about her modest background and mercurial career, which began with an impromptu performance for B.I.G. on the street in their Brooklyn neighborhood.
As B.I.G. became a superstar, Lil’ Kim became “Queen Bee,” the oversexed gangsta girl in his otherwise all-male clique. Her first album, 1996’s “Hard Core,” lived up to its title with its sexually explicit lyrics — and became a big hit, thanks to songs like “Crush On You” and others with unmentionable titles.
Lil’ Kim developed into one of the few female rappers with a commercially viable career. As plastic surgery slowly transformed her from cute around-the-way girl to glam, top-heavy pinup, she morphed into a sexy fashionista who, for some, exemplified female empowerment.
Her bigger-than-rap status was cemented in 1999 when, while presenting an MTV award wearing a pasty over one exposed breast, co-presenter Diana Ross jiggled Kim’s bare flesh.
She won a Grammy in 2001 for her part in the hit remake of “Lady Marmalade.” Now she’s probably headed to prison, adding a chapter to a remarkable life that already has produced an accredited Syracuse University course titled “The Life and Times of Lil’ Kim.”
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