By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
After taping an episode of the Late Show with David Letterman (Ellen DeGeneres was the other guest), the Game went back to his hotel to change. Around 9 p.m., he, his bodyguard, and another friend left their hotel at 56th Street and Seventh Avenue for a business meeting with magnate Jay-Z at the Westin at 43rd and Eighth. Spotting a livery idling in front of the hotel, Game and his two guys jumped in. At first, driver Mohammad Butt told them he couldn't take them (liveries are not allowed to pick up street hails), but the Game talked him into it.
As the livery started off, an unmarked police car pulled in behind it. The driver then became nervous, repeatedly looking in his rear-view mirror, asking, "What's behind me? What's behind?" "Relax, man," the Game answered. "That's just the hip-hop police. They're with me." The cops had been tailing the Game everywhere he went in the city for the past two days, Lichtman says.
The driver then started "driving like a maniac, going through red lights," says Lichtman, and the Game told him to slow down, "because he knows what's going to happen[the Game's] going to get blamed."
Cops stopped the livery after it went through two red lights, made the driver get out of the car, threw him up against the hood, frisked him, and then checked his license, registration, and insurance. The Game contends that he heard a cop ask the driver, "Did Game make you do this?"
It may have been at this point that Butt told police that he'd told the Game and his friends that it was illegal for him to pick up street hails. According to police reports, Butt said the Game assured him that it was all right, because they were undercover cops. When the unmarked police car pulled in behind them, Butt told police that Taylor said, "See, we're together," and then ordered the driver to go through red lights.
If the police case was as cut-and-dried as their reports make it out to be, what happened next makes no sense: By all accounts, the cops let the driver get back in his livery and drive the Game, who never left the car, to his meeting with Jay-Z at the Westin. The Game tipped the driver $200, an amount the prosecutor would later intimate was shut-up money. But the Gamewho Forbes estimated made $11 million in 2006 claims that's just what he tips these days.
The rapper emerged from the meeting around 11:30 p.m. to find "about eight police cars there and a zillion cops," says Lichtman. "You'd think the guy just robbed a bank." The driver, who had left after dropping the Game off at the Westin, was there as well. He pointed out the Game, and the cops arrested him.
"What wasn't a crime at the time when all of this supposedly occurred suddenly becomes a crime two hours later," Lichtman notes.
The Game was taken to Midtown South and called his manager, who called Lichtman. The lawyer says the cops told him that the Game had shown the driver a wallet that had a police badge in it.
Lichtman claims that the cops at the precinct wouldn't let him speak to the Game and that, over the lawyer's specific instructions to the desk sergeant that his client not be questioned, they took a statement from the rapper.
The statement that the police took down, based on what they claimed the Game told them, says that the driver told the Game, "[T]he police are behind me," to which he replied, "I know, I know. They are following me." (A judge subsequently ruled that the statement, even though it doesn't implicate the Game, was improperly obtained and barred it.)
Lichtman asked the cops if they were going to make the Game go through arraignment or issue him a desk appearance ticket (DAT), which sets a future court date and allows immediate release.
"They said, 'We'll let him go on a DAT if you promise to have him go right from here to the airport,' " recalls Lichtman. "I said, 'What do you give a shit for?' They said, 'We want him out of town right away.' "
Lichtman says he had no choice but to agree, adding, "I just wanted to get my guy out of there." Before leaving the station house, the attorney retrieved the Game's property and noticed that the police returned his wallet, supposedly the key piece of evidence in their case. Expecting to find a fake police badge, Lichtman opened the wallet and instead saw a picture of the Game's two-year-old kid.
At 6 a.m., the Game was on a flight heading back to California.
The Game made the Hip-Hop Cops' most-want-to-tail list when a member of his entourage was shot in the leg outside Hot 97's studio on Hudson Street back in February 2006. That shooting is thought to have stemmed from a feud with the Game's one-time mentor, 50 Cent, and his posse.
"For certain rappers," says Lichtman, "the moment they hit New York, they're literally escorted around by the NYPD. It's not like only occasionally[the police] find out their flight information and meet them at the airport. They walk out of the airport, they're there. They go to the hotel, they're there. They leave the hotel, they're there."