Rap Star T.I. Allowed to Vote Despite Federal Machine-Gun Guilty Plea

MTV News has posted an outrageous story: the rapper T.I. (Real name: Clifford Harris) was arrested in October 2007, mere hours before he was to headline the BET Hip-Hop Awards in Atlanta. The rapper was charged with possession of unregistered machine guns and silencers and possession of firearms by a convicted felon. He pleaded guilty to the charges in May as part of a plea deal. But despite a guilty plea and jail time to come, the rapper was allowed to vote in Georgia in the 2008 election. MTV asked:

How was T.I. able to vote? Well, the Georgia Secretary of State's office, in consultation with their own lawyers, "reviewed the law and found that Mr. Harris is eligible to in Georgia because the state constitution says that to be able to vote, you have to have served your entire sentence, which includes all probation and fines and any other stipulations," said Matt Carrothers, the Secretary of State's director of media relations. Because T.I. is not slated to go to prison until next year on felony gun charges and is not currently incarcerated – though he is under house arrest – and is not on probation, all he had to do was contact the county he votes in and get re-registered in order to cast a ballot. "Feels like I've taken advantage of my right to become a part of the democracy," T.I. said in the release. "It was definitely worth standing in line and doing all the things people complain about voting. I think it's more than worth it."

Associated Press added details:

But his lawyer, Steve Sadow, confirmed that he can still cast a ballot because his sentence doesn't start until late March next year."Until he is sentenced in the federal case, he doesn't have a conviction yet," said Sadow of his 28-year-old client, whose real name is Clifford Harris. "Even though he is a convicted felon, he has a right to vote since he is not serving probation and hasn't started his prison sentence."A spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State's office confirmed that T.I. was eligible to vote.With an "I'm a Georgia Voter" sticker planted on his black vest, T.I. signed autographs and took photos with several fans who were stunned to see the Grammy-winning artist in line to vote."It's inspirational what he is doing," said Nathirya Brown, 19, a first-time voter who was one of the first to spot T.I. stepping off his "Respect My Vote" campaign bus. He and the nonpartisan group Hip-Hop Caucus launched a nationwide tour in late July to encourage voters between the ages of 18 and 29 to take a more active role in politics.

It’s quite a favorable environment for a rapper to plead guilty to breaking federal gun laws and still be allowed to vote, and even be seen as a role model by fans.(Hat tip: Cam Edwards)

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis