Irv Gotti Found Not Guilty of Money Laundering

Not guilty. Irv Lorenzo, Chris Lorenzo, and Murder Inc. Records have all been found not guilty on charges of money-laundering and conspiracy to commit money-laundering. The jury deliberated for two days, and the verdict came at 6 p.m., just at the court was getting ready to close for the night and the journalists were starting to grumble that we'd have to come back to the courthouse one more fucking day. We'd all sat there the whole day, perking up our ears whenever word would come back that the jury had asked to see this or that piece of evidence but otherwise burying ourselves in newspapers or chatting with the funny, hardbitten female court officer. On the other side of the aisle, people seemed more bored than worried. The Lorenzo brothers sank back into their chairs or paced around, and 7 Aurelius and the Lorenzo family and all the assorted friends and hangers-on who'd been there for the whole trial muttered to each other and did their best to pass the time.

Everything changed when the court officer walked into the room at the end of the day and said, "Counsel, we have a verdict." I had my iPod on at the time, but the reporter next to me said that there'd been an audible gasp in the room. There was a palpable sense of electricity in the room; everyone moved to the edge of their seats. The jury walked in silently, the judge asked for the verdict, and juror #1, a middle-aged Latino guy with a thick accent, read out "not guilty" six times. The first time, a sob went up in the room. People were crying, hugging each other, waiting for the jury to leave so they could really cheer. When they did, Irv jumped up on the barrier separating the audience from the court area and hugged everyone he could. "I wanted to stage-dive, man," I heard him tell someone a few minutes later. "They took my life for three years," he told reporters. "I just want it back." Ja Rule, who hadn't been in the courtroom today but must've been nearby, ran in and hugged him a few minutes later. Word came from the jury's quarters that the jury had asked to see Irv and Chris and their mother. "Jurors wanted to hug Irv, hug Chris," said Irv's lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, a few minutes later. "They feel totally connected to these two young men. Family members are crying. Jurors are crying." I somehow ended up in the elevator riding down with Irv and Chris and Ja and the defense lawyers, and Irv was yelling about how he'd never even been in trouble for jaywalking in his life, how he'd never faced a judge or a jury, how his legs went all crooked when they announced the verdict. Running down the hallway, Ja was yelling, "Three years! Now it's time to go to work!"

Outside the courtroom, cameras went off like strobe lights, and Irv grabbed Lefcourt and Chris's lawyer, Gerald Shargel keeping his arms around them while reporters and cameras crowded around. Irv was yelling about how they should give him a medal for all the people he's helped, how the prosecution had tried to turn innocent text-messages into something horrible simply because he was friends with Irv, how he was going to go to the studio with Ja and make some music.

And look, I'm not at all a fan of the music Irv has made, and I was skeptical going into the trial. But right now I like them, and I feel privileged to have been there when they won. The trial was a media circus, of course, and I was part of that. There was all this stuff about John Ragin's 50 Cent testimony, about which rap stars showed up what days, about Supreme's history of violence. But here's the basic story: the prosecution relied on unconvincing and incomplete evidence, attempting to put two music guys in prison for twenty years because they were friends with a bad guy (and because they gave him money, though it certainly looks like that was legal), and it didn't work. If Irv and Chris didn't have the money for dazzling defense lawyers like Lefcourt and Shargel, maybe they would've been convicted. But then, if they didn't have that money, they wouldn't have been tried for money-laundering in the first place. They've been under investigation for three years, a time period, I'm just realizing now, that almost exactly coincides with the rise of 50 Cent and the decline in popularity of Murder Inc., and now it's over. They're free. Maybe they'll rise again and Murder Inc. will become the commercial force it once was now that this distraction is over. I doubt it, but that doesn't matter right now. But they should've won, and they did win. "The jury bridged the cultural divide," said Lefcourt. I can't say it any better.

Voice feature: Tom Breihan on the Murder Inc. trial

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