A rapper who made headlines for being charged under a gang conspiracy law stemming solely from the content of his lyrics and alleged ties to a San Diego gang has plead not guilty to the charges and is now scheduled for a trial date on January 23.
Brandon Duncan, who’s stage name is Tiny Doo, has been accused of gang conspiracy implicated in nine shootings between May 2013 and February of this year according to Fox 5 San Diego. Duncan, who has no previous criminal record, is one of 15 gang members being charged for the shooting crimes though his specific case hinges on a law passed in 2000 that allows prosecutors to charge gang members who have benefited from the criminal acts of fellow members.
Prosecutors in the case claim that the sales of Tiny Doo’s 2012 release No Safety, which features an image of a handgun and accompanying ammunition, were bolstered by his connection to the gang and its reputation for violence.
“They’re charging Brandon Duncan with crimes that the District Attorney admits that he had no involvement in or even knowledge of,” the rapper’s lawyer, Brian Watkins, said after the not guilty plea. “That is the definition of injustice.”
“It’s really given a black eye to the legal system here in the DA’s office,” Watkins also said. “To charge someone with crimes while admitting he had no knowledge of those crimes. Based on his artistic expression, he made a rap album — a rap album that’s actually made in 2012, these shootings occurred in 2013 — so there’s absolutely no connection.”
The District Attorney’s Office released their own statement claiming that the case brought against Duncan is “not about a First Amendment issue.”
“It’s important for the community to understand that this case is not about punishing someone for rapping and it’s not about a First Amendment issue,” the office said. “This case is about protecting our neighborhoods by taking violent gang members off the streets and holding them accountable for the crimes they commit using a law that voters passed and the court has recognized as constitutional.”