After spending over a year and a half in jail awaiting trial, the Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda pleaded guilty late last year to conspiracy and weapons possession in a deal with prosecutors three days before jury selection was to start.
Justice Abraham Clott promised Shmurda, whose legal name is Ackquille Pollard, a sentence of seven years in prison in return for his guilty plea. Two co-defendants, Chad Marshall, 25, and Nicolas McCoy, 21, accepted the same offer.
As he entered his plea, Mr. Pollard, 22, leaned far back in his chair, his head rolling and his eyes nervously skipping around the audience in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Justice Clott asked him whether it was true that he had possessed a loaded 9-millimeter handgun on June 3, 2014, in an apartment in Brooklyn and meant to “use it unlawfully.”
“Yes, your honor,” Mr. Pollard said.
Mr. Pollard was arrested outside Quad Recording Studios in December 2014 in Manhattan and accused of being a leader in GS9 — or G Stone Crips — a violent street gang in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, that the police said was responsible for one murder and several shootings. Fourteen other reputed members of the gang were arrested in sweeps that day or later in the month.
A 101-count indictment said that members of GS9 had murdered a rival gang member at a Brooklyn deli and nearly killed an innocent woman while shooting at rivals. GS9 was also accused of selling drugs and engaging in gun battles outside a Miami nightclub and the Brooklyn Criminal Courts Building.
Before his arrest, Bobby Schmurda had been a rising star in hip-hop, with a debut album on the horizon after the chart success of a self-produced single — “Hot Boy” in its edited form — that was bolstered by a dance craze on the video app Vine. He had a hard, muscular style and seemed to rap with authority about drug trafficking, gangs and guns.
He was soon signed to a multi-album, seven-figure deal by Epic Records, whose promotional muscle helped “Hot Boy” go platinum and reach No. 6 on the Billboard chart. The signing also came with Mr. Pollard’s own imprint at the label, GS9 Records. He even made an electric appearance on “The Tonight Show,” pushing the downloads of his single to over 800,000.
Soon after his arrest, however, his relationship with Epic cooled. He failed to make bail and began speaking out about what he perceived as a lack of support from a corporation that had profited from his gangster image. “When I got locked up, I thought they were going to come for me, but they never came,” Mr. Pollard said in an interview from behind bars.
With no help from the label, Mr. Pollard went through three different defence lawyers, all of whom tried and failed to get his $2 million bail reduced. His music career stalled. Then he was accused of smuggling contraband at Rikers Island, adding to his legal troubles.
Some in the recording industry saw his quick rise and fall as a cautionary tale of what can happen when a label seeking street credibility signs a little-known rapper who is hoping to escape the streets.
Epic, a subsidiary of Sony Music, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Mr. Pollard’s plea deal or status at the label.
Two of Mr. Pollard’s co-defendants, Rashid Derissant, 24, and Alex Crandon, 22, were convicted in April of murder and conspiracy, among other charges, after a long trial.
Justice Clott gave both men the maximum allowed sentence — 98½ years for Mr. Derissant and 53⅓ years for Mr. Crandon. “The community must be protected given the enormity of the crimes here,” Justice Clott said.
The case was brought by the city’s special narcotics prosecutor, which investigates drug-related crimes in all five boroughs.
As Justice Clott presented the prosecution’s final offers for plea bargains to Mr. Pollard and three co-defendants on Friday, he made it clear they would all face decades in prison if they were convicted at trial.
One defendant, Santino Broderick, 23, declined the deal. Mr. Pollard, Mr. Marshall and Mr. McCoy each pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree conspiracy and one count of weapons possession.
Mr. Pollard’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, said in a statement that the rapper would receive credit for time served, which would “hopefully permit him to be home in approximately three and a half years and resume his remarkable career.”