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Lil Wayne sentencing delayed again

While the rap star was heading to his sentencing after pleading guilty in a 2007 gun case, a fire shut down the courthouse and postponed the already-delayed proceeding.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Lil Wayne was ready Tuesday to go to jail, but his court date went up in smoke.

While the rap star was heading to his sentencing after pleading guilty in a 2007 gun case, a fire shut down the courthouse and postponed the already-delayed proceeding.

Having braced to start up to a year behind bars, he was unhappy about the postponement, said his lawyer, Stacey Richman.

"Once you make up your mind to do something, you want to do it," she said.

The sentencing may be rescheduled for Wednesday, though court officials were still scrambling to determine Tuesday afternoon when Manhattan's main criminal courthouse could reopen after the smoky basement blaze. It left eight people with minor injuries and forced about 1,000 to flee the building.

The Grammy Award-winning rapper is expected to get a yearlong jail term after pleading guilty in October to attempted criminal possession of a weapon. He admitted having a loaded gun on his tour bus when it was stopped after a Manhattan show in July 2007.

If he's back in court Wednesday, he could cross paths with fellow platinum-selling rapper Ja Rule, arrested separately on a gun-possession charge after playing the same concert. Ja Rule, known to the court as Jeff Atkins, happens to have a court date Wednesday; he has pleaded not guilty.

Lil Wayne, 27, was initially due to be sentenced and start his term last month, but the date was pushed back so he could have surgery on his gemstone-encrusted teeth.

He had bid a drawn-out adieu to friends and fellow artists, including a Rolling Stone cover story last month and a video blitz this past weekend. He said in a video clip sent Monday to MTV News that he shot footage for seven music videos with various artists in one night over the weekend.

Lil Wayne, born Dwayne Carter, has been one of the genre's most prolific, ubiquitous and profitable figures in recent years. His "Tha Carter III" was the best-selling album of 2008.

His latest album, "Rebirth," was released last month.

The courthouse fire apparently started in a wooden equipment shed construction workers had built in the basement at 100 Centre St., firefighters said. The 17-story, 1941 Art Deco building houses many of Manhattan's criminal courts, its district attorney's office and other agencies.

The Fire Department said officials were still investigating what caused the blaze but didn't think it was suspicious.

About 1,000 people were forced to leave as smoke spread in the building, leaving a haze in the lobby and a light plume of yellow-brown smoke near the roof. Several surrounding blocks in the busy zone of courts and other government offices were closed for more than an hour.

Five firefighters and an inmate were hurt, according to the Fire Department. Courts spokesman David Bookstaver said a judge and court worker were also hurt, but he declined to identify them.

Court officers were seen helping a woman with an oxygen mask walk out of the building.

In the meantime, hundreds of lawyers, court employees and others waited outside the building.

Mirasol Caramuna had traveled an hour from her Bronx home to pay a traffic ticket before she was ordered outside. Defense lawyer Robert B. Kronenberg said he raced up from the lobby by elevator to a smoky 16th floor to get a briefcase he'd left in a courtroom, then walked back down 16 flights to get out.

"It (the case) was a gift from my wife and children," he explained.