According to a press release from the United States Department of Justice and other reports surfacing late yesterday (October 13th), T.I. (real name Clifford Harris) was arrested on the corner of North Avenue and Piedmont Road in Midtown Atlanta (in the parking lot of a Walgreens) yesterday at around 2:30 p.m. after he allegedly purchased three machine guns and two silencers – the meeting was recorded by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
T.I. has since been informally charged with one federal felony count of possession of unregistered machine guns (and silencers) and two federal felony counts of possession of firearms by a convicted felon. He is currently being held in federal custody and will make his initial appearance in the United States Courthouse in Atlanta tomorrow (October 15th).
“Formal charges have not been filed yet,” T.I.’s attorney, Dwight L. Thomas, clarified to HipHopDX via phone late this afternoon. “Informal charges have been filed, meaning a criminal complaint and an arrest warrant. But an actual indictment, which is formal charges, has not been filed [yet]. Tomorrow is a first appearance hearing [which we won’t be presented with the formal charges at]. It’s simply for the purposes of advising him of why he was arrested, not whether he’s innocent or guilty. The judge doesn’t make those determinations tomorrow. It’s just a formality. He’s brought before the court. Inquiries are made [as to whether] he has counsel, and of course he has lawyers. And [he’s informed] of what he’s initially accused of, in terms of federal allegations.”
Due to attorney-client privilege, Mr. Thomas can’t reveal whether or not T.I. will be flatly denying the charges against him. “But in this country a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Thomas reminds. “So as he stands right now in a court of law, he’s not guilty. That’s America. This is not Iraq.”
According to Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, if T.I. is eventually convicted of the charges presented against him a lengthy bid behind bars may or may not be likely. “There’s a number of statutoral ranges, but we don’t give out maximum sentences because they’re unrealistic,” he told HipHopDX via phone from his Atlanta office when reached for comment this afternoon. “So in other words, we don’t say if you piled up all the charges he could face a gazillion years. The fact is that’ll be up to the judge, and there are many, many other factors that determine any potential sentence. But we don’t put the statutoral max on it because it’s not rational. It would be really high, but it may not be realistic. And we tend not to guess as to what somebody would serve in prison. Again, that’s up to the judge, as is bail. [Bail will] be determined on background. I think he’s accused of being a convicted felon, so that may factor into it.”
“The court will address issues of bail tomorrow,” T.I.’s lawyer clarifies. “I can tell you that the law allows bail for this particular offense, or offenses.”
The charges against T.I. may in fact grow, as during a search of the vehicle he was allegedly driving at the time of his arrest three additional guns were discovered – one loaded firearm was allegedly tucked between the driver’s seat where T.I. had been sitting and the center console. Three additional unnamed people who were in T.I.’s vehicle were arrested, but one was released.
Shortly after his arrest a federal search warrant was executed on Harris’ home in College Park. While conducting the search of T.I.’s home agents allegedly discovered three rifles, two pistols and a revolver in a walk-in closet in Harris’ bedroom. Five of the six guns were loaded.
A total of 12 guns (and two silencers) were recovered during the arrest and subsequent searches.
Per the allegations laid out by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, David E. Nahmias, the circumstances that led to T.I.’s arrest unfolded in a rather unusual way. On October 2nd an employee of a federal firearms licensee advised ATF that someone was attempting to buy a machine gun without registering the weapon, which is required by law. The person trying to make the purchase was then directed to an undercover ATF agent who was posing as a machine gun dealer.
This past Wednesday (October 10th) the buyer was finally arrested by ATF after purchasing 3 unregistered machine guns and 2 silencers from the undercover agent in exchange for $2,200 and a pistol.
After his arrest the buyer agreed to become a cooperating witness (CW) for the government following his revelation to arresting agents that he was purchasing the machine guns for his boss, Clifford Harris, who as a convicted felon is legally not permitted to own a firearm. The CW had been working as a bodyguard for T.I. for the past three months. As of now, T.I.’s attorney can’t reveal the bodyguard’s name. “All of that will probably be made public throughout the course of the proceedings,” he explains.
Given that his employment with T.I. just began in July, there are several skeptics already surfacing who wonder aloud if T.I.’s bodyguard was working with the government all along to help establish these charges. “I’ll leave those types of theories to others,” says Thomas. “We will deal with facts and law in court that are relevant and admissible. I’m sure there will be lots of rumors or gossip, lots of insinuations. But those are the kinds of things that lawyers should not deal with.”
The CW allegedly purchased firearms for T.I. during almost the entirety of his employment. Allegedly on Mr. Harris’ behalf, he purchased a Calico 9mm pistol on September 6th, a Smith & Wesson .500 caliber revolver on September 18th, and three rifles and four handguns on September 26th – allegedly using $7,000 in cash provided by T.I. Three of those guns were recovered during the search of T.I.’s home.
In total, records confirm that the CW has legally purchased 25 guns over the past year-and-a-half.
Immediately prior to the CW’s arrest on Wednesday T.I. allegedly arranged for his bodyguard-turned-informant to pick up $12,000 in cash from his bank to purchase the machine guns.
After agreeing to cooperate with the government, the CW had a series of telephone conversations with T.I., which were being recorded by ATF. On Thursday (October 11th) in one of the calls the CW is recording saying he had “everything for you” to T.I., who reportedly responded affirmatively.
The next day (Friday, October 12th) T.I. reportedly phoned the CW, who then asked Harris when he wanted to take delivery of what he had. Reportedly, T.I. then agreed to take possession of what the CW had yesterday.
After the CW left a voicemail message for T.I. yesterday morning, Harris reportedly called him back shortly after noon to arrange delivery.
During the delivery of the guns in the Walgreens parking lot the CW reportedly entered T.I.’s vehicle and displayed the two silencers and three machine guns that Harris was allegedly attempting to purchase. When the CW explained the function of one of the silencers T.I. allegedly said “no flash, no bang.” Harris’ reportedly also discussed with his bodyguard the selector switch, which switches the gun from semi-automatic to fully automatic, of one of the machine guns. T.I. was then arrested.
T.I. was jailed just hours before he would have received the award for Album of the Year at the BET Hip Hop Awards [to see who all the winners at this year’s awards were click here ]. T.I. shares the award with Common, who accepted on T.I.’s behalf. The King of the South was also scheduled to perform at the awards presentation, but due to his absence comedian, and host of the show, Katt Williams performed in his place alongside Wyclef Jean in a rendition of “You Know What It Is.” Several artists voiced their support for T.I. during the show.
“He’s appreciative of all the support he has gotten from the people in the music industry, and people outside the music industry,” says Thomas. “I’ve had a chance to speak to him [since the arrest], our conversations were very productive. He is very upbeat. He’s confident that the American legal system will work in his favor. He understands that he lives in a country that has a great court system. And that court system is designed to protect the citizens of this country. And he will be afforded all of those protections.”
Update: From an affidavit from the ATF, Grand Hustle Records artist Alfamega has been implicated as a middle man in Wednesday's gun transaction from the cooperating witness and T.I. Alfamega, whose government name is not listed, presently appears on T.I.'s most recent single from T.I. vs. T.I.P., "Hurt," also featuring Busta Rhymes. More details as they come in.