NEW YORK (AP) — Bobby Shmurda, a rapper once on the rise thanks to a viral music video that popularized the “Shmoney dance,” was sentenced to seven years in prison Wednesday after claiming he was railroaded into taking a guilty plea on charges he conspired with a violent drug gang.
“I want to withdraw my plea,” a defiant Shmurda said during his sentencing in a Manhattan courtroom. “I was forced by my attorney to take the plea. I was forced.”
New York state court Justice Abraham Clott denied the request and imposed the seven-year term that was agreed to as part of a plea deal that spared Shmurda from going to trial on multiple counts carrying penalties that could have put him behind bars for decades.
The 22-year-old Shmurda, whose birth name is Ackquille Pollard, is best known for “Hot Boy,” a gritty hit song with rhymes about gunplay. He and Chad “Rowdy Rebel” Marshall — another aspiring hip-hop artist who also pleaded guilty in the same case — gained notoriety with their performance in the “Shmoney dance” video, which has about 15 million YouTube views.
Authorities arrested Shmurda in late 2014 after he left a recording studio near Radio City Music Hall, only days after he performed “Hot Boy” for a national television audience on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Investigators found two handguns and a small amount of crack cocaine in a car in which he was riding, authorities said.
An indictment charged Shmurda and more than 15 defendants with a variety of crimes including murder, attempted murder, assault and drug dealing. Shootings by the gang left one rival dead, injured an innocent bystander sitting on a folding chair outside a Brooklyn home and caused pandemonium outside a nightclub in Miami Beach, Florida, authorities said.
The court papers alleged that Pollard once fired a gun toward a crowd of people outside a barbershop in Brooklyn. They also said he was present last year during a confrontation between rival drug gangs outside a Brooklyn courthouse where shots were fired.
Authorities hope the convictions of Shmurda and others “bring greater security and stability to neighborhoods plagued by gun violence,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said Wednesday. “These individuals have acknowledged possessing guns and conspiring with others to possess and use guns against others. The 21 weapons seized during the investigation fueled violence at the heart of the case.”
In a jailhouse interview last year with The New York Times, Shmurda criticized his label, Epic Records, for not helping him pay his $2 million bail. Epic hasn’t commented.
He also claimed in another interview with the entertainment website Complex after his guilty plea in September that his case was a sham.
“We had detectives lying, saying they seen us with guns in our hands, but when everything came back there was no DNA, no fingerprints, no nothing. … We’re black kids, these are white people with badges,” he said.
Shmurda’s lawyer has said he could get enough credit for time served and good behavior “to be home in approximately 3 ½ years and resume his remarkable career.”