In a dramatic, last-ditch effort to avoid state prison, the Brooklyn rapper known as Bobby Shmurda told a Manhattan court this morning that his previous plea of guilty had been be coerced by his attorney, Alex Spiro.
“They lied to me,” Shmurda, 22, born Ackquille Jean Pollard, told Judge Abraham Clott, as a clearly flustered Spiro stood beside Shmurda. “I was forced to take this sentence. I did not want to take this sentence. I was forced by my attorney to take this plea.”
Then, facing Spiro and addressing him directly, Shmurda said, “I want to drop my plea and fire you.”
But judge Abraham Clott was unmoved by Shmurda’s personal appeal, and imposed the 7-year state prison sentence Shmurda previously agreed to in September, when he plead guilty to conspiracy and criminal possession of a weapon, with intent to “use it unlawfully.”
At the time, Shmurda and two co-defendants, Chad Marshall and Nicholas McCoy, were facing a multi-count felony conspiracy indictment charging them with murder, attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, drug-dealing and weapons possession. Police alleged Shmurda was part of gang called GS9, and that his songs and videos were “almost like a real-life document of what they were doing on the street,” in the words of James Essig, head of a New York Police Department unit that arrested Shmurda.
According to the New York Daily News, when Shmurda, Marshall and McCoy appeared in court in September they were presented with the 7-year plea deal and a 20-minute long discussion loudly ensued in open court between the defendants and their lawyers. “’It’s seven years, seven years,’ one of them was heard saying as all three were shaking their heads. McCoy’s lawyer, Leslie Jones Thomas, told the group, ‘You won’t have a future if you don’t take it. Don’t throw your life away.’”
Shmurda was arrested, on December 17, 2014, days after he performed his break-out hit, “Hot Boy,” on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and after he signed a multi-album, multi-million dollar deal with Epic Records. The arrest was executed as Shmurda left Quad Studios, a recording studio near Radio City Music Hall. Police found two handguns and a small amount of crack cocaine in a car in which he was riding, they said. Since then Shmurda has been held on Riker’s Island, in lieu of $2 million bail.
According to a report from the Associated Press, the evidence against Shmurda included recorded phone conversations, during which GS9 members referred to firearms as “tone,” ”socks” or “CDs” and shootings as “sun tans.” In one such conversation, for example, Shmurda is alleged to have said “I am two socks Bobby right now,” causing another GS9 member to comment “Bobby out here with two CDs on him like in the wild wild west or something.”
In September, just before a trial on the charges was scheduled to begin, Shmurda, Marshall and McCoy plead guilty in a so-called “global” plea-bargain agreement that encompassed all the charges the trio was facing, and limited their prison sentences to 7 years, with 5 years post-release supervision, as parole is now called in New York State.
It was this agreement that Shmurda sought to disown in court this morning, to no avail.
After her son was sentenced, Shmurda’s mother, Leslie Pollard, said she was disappointed, but not surprised, by Judge Clot’s actions: “You don’t have any rights in that courtroom,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s disappointing.”
Pollard went on to say that her son was innocent of the charges, and that she always opposed a guilty plea. “It was a set up,” she said.
She said that Spiro, her son’s lawyer, knew she opposed a plea-bargain, and he intentionally scheduled a settlement conference at a time he knew she would be out of town and unable to attend.
“During the plea offer, they made sure I wasn’t here. The lawyer was fully aware that I was out of town. I spoke to the lawyer the day before he took the plea, and he advised me that he was bring Ackquille over to talk to them about chances of going to trial. Which then turned into him taking a plea, behind my back.”
She added that her Shmurda was afraid of prison, and being confined for the rest of his life.
“Of course he was afraid. Because at the end of the day he rather look at a date that he can actually come out on the street than to be sitting in jail hoping for an appeal that may never happen.
“And that’s the pressure, not only my son but most black men, deal with today. There’s a million of them sitting in Riker’s Island that are taking plea bargains because they’re being told either you plea out today or you will never walk the street again. And we don’t have a chance because of our color.”
With credit for time-served and good time, Shmurda could be out as early as 2021.
Spiro declined to comment as he left the Court.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 19, 2016