As one of Donald Trump’s final acts as the 45th President of the United States, the embattled former reality TV star pardoned or commutated the prison sentences of 143 people, including Lil Wayne, Kodak Black and Death Row Records co-founder Michael Harris. Trump handed down the list late Tuesday night (January 19) as his last hours in the Oval Office came to a close.
The pardons both surprised and confused social media, with some wondering why a rapper with a criminal record like Kodak was deserving of a break. The Pompano Beach, Florida native has been behind bars since 2019 after he was arrested for weapons possession and sentenced to almost four years in prison. The Bill Israel artist is still facing charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in South Carolina, which carries a sentence of up to 30 years if convicted.
Meanwhile, Wayne pleaded guilty to a federal weapons charge last month and was facing up to 10 years behind bars. In November 2020, the Cash Money legend publicly endorsed Trump with a trip to the White House and ensuing photo, drawing criticism from fans and peers alike.
“Just had a great meeting with @realdonaldtrump @potus,” Wayne wrote on Instagram at the time. “besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done.”
But the move proved to work in Wayne’s favor and he’ll no longer have to worry about potential prison time. Aside from Kodak and Weezy, there were a few notable names left off the list that caught rap fans’ attention, some who’d been lobbying for a pardon or commutation for years. (And yes, we know the president can only pardon federal offenses.)
Corey “C-Murder” Miller, Master P’s brother and certified No Limit solider, was convicted in 2009 of fatally shooting 16-year-old Steven Thomas at a nightclub in 2002. In 2018, two key witnesses in the homicide case changed their stories, prompting Miller to seek another trial.
But in January 2019, Judge Steven Enright of 24th Judicial District Court determined the recantations of two witnesses in the case weren’t credible and refused to grant him another trial or throw out the original conviction.
Several high profile celebrities have gone to bat for Miller, including Keeping Up With The Kardashians star Kim Kardashian and his ex-girlfriend Monica. Last August, Kardashian told her 68 million Twitter followers about the case and got “#FreeCoreyMiller” to trend.
“On January 18, 2002 a tragedy occurred when a young man was killed,” she wrote at the time. “The next day Corey Miller was arrested for the murder. The jury convicted Corey 10-2 and he was sentenced him to life in prison. If his trial was today, the jury would have had to be unanimous for him to be convicted. Since his trial, witnesses have recanted, new evidence of his potential innocence has come to light, and there are claims of jurors being pressured into voting to convict.
Despite Kardashian’s relationship with Trump and success in springing Alice Johnson from prison in 2018, it looks like Miller will continue to serve out his life sentence for the time being or he’ll have to get a pardon from the Governor of Louisiana John Bel Edwards.
Former Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight was sentenced to 28 years in prison following the 2015 hit-and-run death of Terry Carter and won’t be eligible for parole until 2037. But in 2017, it was reported Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood personality Ray J was in talks with members of the Trump administration to free Knight because he’d “learned his lesson.”
A source claimed Ray J was inspired by his ex-girlfriend Kim Kardashian, who was successful in getting clemency for convicted drug trafficker Alice Johnson. But the source added he was worried any affiliation with Trump would tarnish his reputation within the Black community.
“The people around Ray J keep telling him that the fallout with African Americans for meeting with Trump could be catastrophic to his career,” the insider reportedly said at the time. “Especially if he shows up at a political rally.”
Considering President Joe Biden was sworn in to office on Wednesday (January 20), Trump won’t be coming to Knight’s rescue any time soon.
Miami native Bobby Shmurda was arrested on gang conspiracy and gun and drug charges in 2014. The following year, he was caught trying to smuggle a “sharp metal object” into Rikers Island while in custody awaiting trial.
According to TMZ, he’s racked up at least 11 violations while behind bars, including drug possession and using a shank during a fight. Consequently, the Board denied the rapper’s request for parole last September.
But even without a Trump pardon, it doesn’t look like all hope is lost for Shmurda, who secured at Billboard Hot 100 hit with “Hot N-gga” in 2014. Earlier this month, an Instagram post from the No Jumper podcast claimed his conditional release date suggests he’ll be getting out 10 months ahead of schedule.
The post included a screenshot of court documents suggesting a February 2021 release. The caption read, “According to new reports, #BobbyShmurda may be getting a conditional release next month on February 23rd. If released, he will be monitored until his previous release date of December 11, 2021.”
Shmurda fans have been clamoring for his return since he’s been incarcerated. His mother predicts his comeback will be “epic.”
Kanye West and Kodak Black collaborator YNW Melly was arrested in February 2019 for the murders of fellow crewmates YNW Sakchaser and YNW Juvy the year prior. Authorities believe Melly and his friend Cortlen Henry concocted an elaborate plan to make it look like they were killed in a drive-by shooting and drove the two deceased victims to the emergency room in the early morning hours of October 26, 2018.
Henry explained to police they’d just finished late night studio session and as he was getting off the freeway, a vehicle pulled up to his driver’s side and opened fire. Police confirmed there were eight bullet holes on the right side of the car where the two victims were sitting. But the forensic evidence suggested Henry’s account was fabricated and believe Melly and Henry shot up the car to stage a drive-by.
Melly has maintained his innocence in the case and is expected in court on January 28.