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Korobov: Prison for rapping

BY MICHAEL KOROBOV | JANUARY 29, 2015 5:00 AM

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It seems implausible that the creation of a music album could land a man in jail for life. Well maybe in North Korea, Burma, Turkmenistan, or Libya, but certainly not in the United States.

In one of the more bizarre cases in the country, a man in California could soon become the product of this exact scenario. A rapper in San Diego, Tiny Doo (Brandon Duncan), faces a charge of 25 years to life in prison if convicted. The man has no prior criminal record.

The charge stems from a law known as California Penal Code 182.5. Enacted in 2000, the code makes it a felony to be a member of a street gang, obtain knowledge of street gang’s criminal activity, or to promote, assist, or benefit from the criminal actions. Duncan is only being accused of benefiting from criminal actions through the violent imagery he portrays in his lyrics.

Prosecutors argue that the album, No Safety, takes advantage of gang activity and allows Duncan to increase his sales. Deputy District Attorney Anthony Campagna said, “We’re not just talking about a CD of anything, of love songs. We’re talking about a CD [cover] … there is a revolver with bullets.”

It seems as though Campagna has not done his research. Many album covers contain much more violent depictions. A death metal group called Cannibal Corpse has an album called Tomb of the Mutilated, which depicts two bloody skeletons performing explicit sexual acts on each other. In my opinion, this is much more disturbing than a picture of a revolver with bullets.

His bond was set at an unbelievable $500,000, and because he is unable to afford this, he has been spending time in jail until his trial date of April 20. Again, this is just for a music album. It doesn’t seem as if he’s been profiting too much from the album … considering he’s in jail.

In December, I wrote about another case that has made the Supreme Court regarding a man, Anthony Elonis, who made violent posts on Facebook and was sentenced to four years in prison. In some ways, this case is even worse. 

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, free speech must especially remain a top priority.

There are few who would argue that violent lyrics in and of themselves serve as a positive for society, and if prosecutors are able to tie Duncan to criminal activity, then that is a different story. However, putting a man in prison for music lyrics alone is ridiculous and certainly unconstitutional.


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