Grammy-winning rapper T.I. is headed back to Atlanta and may soon be ordered to face the federal judge who signed off on an extraordinary deal that shaved years off a potential prison term.
“T.I. is going to be back on his way to Atlanta in the next 24 hours,” Don Samuel, one of T.I.’s lawyers, said Thursday. “It’s almost certain he’ll end up appearing before the court here. But without knowing all the facts, it’s premature to speculate what the court is likely to do.”
Ed Garland, another member of T.I.’s legal team, said the rapper quickly notified the U.S. Probation Office of his arrest, as the conditions of his probation require. The probation officer has instructed T.I. to report to him when the rapper returns to Atlanta, Garland said.
During T.I.’s March 2007 sentencing hearing, the rapper told Pannell he was sorry for what had happened and vowed to become a changed man. The first-of-its-kind plea deal had required T.I., before going to prison, to perform 1,000 hours of community service telling kids and fans across the country not to emulate his old lifestyle of drugs, guns, gangs and violence.
In March, T.I. was released after serving three months in an Atlanta halfway house. This followed a seven-month term in an Arkansas prison.
Wednesday night, 29-year-old T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr., and his wife, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, were arrested in West Hollywood during a traffic stop.
“Deputies smelled a strong odor of marijuana emitting from the vehicle,” the Los Angeles sheriff’s department said. “A narcotics investigation ensued” and resulted in the arrests.
T.I. and his wife were released from jail at about 4 a.m. Thursday after each posted $10,000 bail.
The terms of T.I.’s probation say he cannot possess or use any narcotic or controlled substance or frequent places where drugs are “illegally sold, used, distributed or administered.” He also cannot associate with anyone engaged in criminal activity, the terms of his sentence dictate.
Atlanta lawyer Tim Saviello, a former federal defender, said T.I.’s probation officer has two choices. First, he can ask T.I. to agree to modify the terms of his probation by requiring him to take drug counseling, such as attending Narcotics Anonymous classes. He may also be required to take more frequent drug tests. Pannell would have to sign off on such an arrangement.
This is what typically happens in a run-of-the-mill case in which a probationer tests positive for drugs or is found to possess a small quantity of marijuana, Saviello said. “But this is not your run-of-the-mill case,” he added.
The probation officer also has the option of filing a notice to revoke some or all of T.I.’s probation, which expires in 2013. This will require a court hearing, with Pannell deciding on whether to send the rapper to prison.
“It seems unfortunate T.I. would put himself in that situation,” Saviello said. “Certainly it’s unfortunate for him considering the nature of the deal he got.”