Slick Trouble

The government's determination to deport old-school rapper Slick Rick knows no bounds

"He was using this tough-guy stuff on me, and I felt at the time that I was vulnerable," Walters told an immigration judge in 1995. He soon fired Plummer, giving him $3,000 and a van as severance. But it wasn't enough. "Then all type of strange things was happening," Walters said. "I was getting robbed. People ran into my house, tied me up, and beat me—pistol-whipped."

In April of 1990, outside a Bronx club at 3 a.m., several men approached Walters near his Nissan Pathfinder. "We want you," they told him before two of them blasted 20 shots, hitting Walters three times and sending him, his female passenger, and a man standing nearby to the hospital. Walters recognized the assailants as friends of Plummer's.

After that, Walters bought handguns—five different kinds—and a sawed-off shotgun. He began carrying them almost everywhere he went. His friends sensed the trouble and found excuses to avoid him. Meanwhile, Plummer got even more direct. "He just straight up said 'Yes, I did it.' He wanted money. I was afraid to come out my own house," Walters told the judge.

photo: Matthew Salacuse

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Editor's note: This piece appeared originally in New Times Broward-Palm Beach.

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On July 3, 1990, Walters and his girlfriend, Lisa Santiago, went out to get some Chinese food, Walters wearing his Davis 380 automatic pistol in his waistband, the other guns and ammunition scattered throughout the car—in coat pockets, in a bag under Santiago's feet, and on the floor. After eating, they got into Walters' black car to go shopping for their unborn baby that Santiago, then seven months pregnant, was carrying.

Then Walters, edgy and paranoid, spotted his cousin, Plummer, coming out of a store at 241st Street and White Plains Road. Walters reached for the closest gun and fired.

His first two shots, aimed out of the window of the car as he drove past, missed Plummer entirely and hit the ankles of Wilbert Henry, an unemployed taxi driver who was standing at the curb. Walters then shot Plummer twice in the leg and once in the arm before Plummer managed to escape inside a store. Walters sped off.

He led police on a short high-speed chase south on the Bronx River Parkway, weaving between cars, then tried to exit the highway with a sudden turn from the left lane. He misjudged the distance and crashed into a tree. Both of Santiago's legs were broken in the collision, and Walters was covered with cuts. When they arrived at the hospital, Walters and Santiago were both arrested.

Walters was indicted on two counts of attempted murder. He pleaded guilty to all charges, including assault, use of a firearm, and possession of a weapon. And in 1991, he was sentenced to 40 months to ten years in prison.

For the next two years, he served time in at least four New York correctional facilities. He kept himself busy by taking classes: music, commercial arts, shop, and a course in aggression replacement treatment. His only act of insubordination was refusing to participate in the General Business Program. He could have used it—at the time, he owed the U.S. government $100,000 in back taxes.

The superintendent of the New York Department of Corrections, John O'Keefe, assessed Walters' overall disciplinary record as "excellent." By July 1993, the singer was given work-release privileges, which allowed him to live at home and spend his days working on a new album, Behind Bars,for Def Jam. He settled civil lawsuits with both of his victims, gave interviews about the dangers of crime, and talked to wayward youth about his experiences in jail. He told the world he had changed.

"I know I give off the impression like a gangster image, but that is not the person as was in the shell," he said to a courtroom in 1995. "Within the shell is a person who made a mistake... I'm a better person today. I have responsibilities, you know? I'm ready to face those responsibilities as an adult. I know that the crime that I committed was drastic, and I know that at the time, I wasn't thinking on a right way of thinking. But I hope that you believe that I'm being sincere, that I'm a changed person."

His intended target wasn't. In 1992, Mark Plummer, Walters' cousin, broke into a house and raped a young boy. The boy's father shot him to death. For him, at least, the story was over. But Walters is still paying for his crimes.

"They all played a part and got their punishments," Rick's wife, Mandy Aragones, tells New Times. "But the problem for Ricky is that his punishment keeps on coming back."


In 1993, after six months of serving time out of jail on a work-release program, the INS informed Walters that it planned to deport him. Under a 1952 law, an alien convicted of an aggravated felony or of using a firearm can be kicked out of the country. And that's what the government intended to do. Walters' work release was discontinued, and he was returned to prison as he waited for the immigration case to make its way through the courts.

It was a year and a half before the case went before a judge, time behind bars that Walters could have spent in the work-release program working on the outside, his wife says.

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