Rap moguls Irving and Christopher Lorenzo were found not guilty on Friday (Dec. 2) of laundering cash for a New York drug lord after two days of deliberations by a federal jury.
Rap moguls Irving and Christopher Lorenzo were found not guilty on Friday of laundering cash for a New York drug lord after two days of deliberations by a federal jury.
The brothers, who called themselves Irv and Chris Gotti after the notorious Gambino crime family, broke into tears as the verdict was read in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn and hugged family members after a successful defense contending the charges were based on guilt by association.
Irving and Christopher, 35 and 38 years old respectively, who formed the rap label formerly known as Murder Inc., could have faced 20 years in prison on each of two counts. They were charged with money laundering and conspiracy.
"This was a targeted effort to take down the rap world," said Christopher Lorenzo. "They don't understand our culture."
Outside the court, the brothers were hugged by rap star Ja Rule, who attended the trial in a show of support along with other hip-hop artists, including Jay-Z, Ashanti, Fat Joe and Russell Simmons.
Prosecutor Carolyn Pokorny had said the case was not about the rap world but two men who laundered money for one of the "biggest, baddest, most dangerous drug lords in New York City," referring to Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, who once served eight years in prison for dealing crack.
Defense lawyers acknowledged the Lorenzos were friends and legitimate business partners with McGriff, and helped finance his straight-to-video movie, "Crime Partners."
"I'm overjoyed," said Irv Lorenzo. "The only thing we were guilty of was being friends of somebody, of knowing someone from our neighborhood."
One of the jurors, Gloria Menzies, stopped to hug Irv Lorenzo outside the courthouse. "It was a weak case. The prosecution had no evidence or proof," she said.
The trial marked the latest in a series of entanglements between rap music figures and the law.
Earlier this year, rapper Lil' Kim was sentenced to a year in prison for lying to a grand jury investigating two of her friends involved in a 2001 shootout between hip-hop groups.
Rappers Tupac Shakur and Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallers were killed in drive-by shootings in the 1990s, and current chart-topper 50 Cent was shot nine times in 2000 when he was still a drug dealer and not yet a star.