It’s now been 435 days since Bobby Shmurda — the Brooklyn rapper who rose to viral stardom with his No. 6-peaking summer 2014 hit “Hot N—a” — has been sitting in a New York City jail awaiting trial. After a long series of delays, his day in court was supposed to come Feb. 22, only for the trial date to be pushed back again to May 11 — a date just shy of 17 months since his initial arrest on conspiracy and weapons charges. This week, Shmurda spoke with Revolt TV about the frustrations, delays and alleged Constitutional violations surrounding his case.
“I want everybody to know that I’m being targeted by police, the prosecutor, I’m being targeted by Manhattan judges, everything,” he says during the phone call, echoing statements he’s made in several interviews over the past year. “I feel like what they’re doing right now is what they do to a lot of people when they don’t have no case on them: they hold them for two or three years, tell them to just take time served or just take four years so you can hurry up and go home.”
The biggest point of contention for Shmurda, born Ackquille Pollard, and his fans has been his $2 million bail, the subject of more than half a dozen hearings and bail package applications that have each been denied by the Manhattan Supreme Court. “I looked up several laws pertaining to my case saying that my bail isn’t supposed to be high, and they’re violating the 8th Amendment with that,” Shmurda says, referencing the Constitutional right prohibiting the federal government from imposing excessive bail, fines or cruel and unusual punishment. “They have no evidence on me [to justify] a $2 million bail.”
Fairness aside, a source tells Billboard there is “no real legal way” for Shmurda’s bail to be reduced at this point — particularly as the case inches closer to trial — as the Court’s initial decision was confirmed on appeal. “The question of bail has been fully litigated up to the appellate level,” Kati Cornell, a spokesperson for the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, which is leading the city’s case, told Billboard in an email. “I would direct you to the court record on that.”
Shmurda also questioned why he’s being tried in a Manhattan court when the alleged crimes occurred in Brooklyn and why it’s being handled by a narcotics prosecutor in the first place. “All of this is claims,” he says. “I got a narcotics D.A. and there’s no drugs caught in this case. There’s no drugs, no kingpin charges. Nothing.”
The drug connection echoes a point made by the rapper’s lawyer Alex Spiro at a court hearing Jan. 11. He argued that because prosecutors declined to pursue an allegation of cocaine possession against his client, the drug conspiracy charges rested solely on taped phone calls made from Riker’s Island by third parties. At the time, Spiro also claimed that two detectives leading the case had “credibility issues” that included alleged 4th Amendment violations, evidence planting and false arrests in other cases within the last two years, which Cornell called “unspecified accusations.”
Meanwhile, the concern over Shmurda’s trial taking place in Manhattan rather than Brooklyn can be boiled down to a demographic issue, speaking to the defendant’s right to be tried by a jury of his peers. Kings County census data from 2014 estimates Brooklyn to be 49 percent white and 35 percent black, compared to 64.7 white and 18.3 percent black in Manhattan. Further, the city’s own data from 2013 puts the neighborhoods of East Flatbush and Brownsville — the Brooklyn areas in which the alleged crimes occurred — puts the percentage breakdown between 80 and 90 percent black and less than two percent white.
“The Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor has citywide jurisdiction. Because we are based in Manhattan, all of our cases are heard in Manhattan courts,” Cornell wrote in an email this morning explaining the borough switch. “As to [the] narcotics charges, the indictment includes charges of conspiracy to sell narcotics and criminally using drug paraphernalia.”
As of press time, Shmurda’s trial is “currently scheduled” to begin May 11, though as the case has proven time and time again, nothing is truly set in stone.
“I was targeted because of my rap music,” Shmurda says. “It’s crazy.”