Among the 15 suspected San Diego street-gang members charged in a string of shootings is Brandon Duncan, an aspiring rap singer.
Duncan, 33, who raps under the name Tiny Doo, is not accused of providing the guns or being present at the nine shootings that terrorized a neighborhood where the Lincoln Park gang has long used violence to protect its turf.
Instead, prosecutors are going after Duncan over something else: His latest album.
Entitled “No Safety,” the album features a picture of a gun and bullets on the cover.
Prosecutors say that shows that Duncan fits the legal definition of a gang member who “willfully promotes, furthers, or assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang.”
Duncan is a documented gang member with a “gang moniker” of TD, according to the San Diego police. In 2008 he was charged with pimping and pandering, although the charges were later dismissed.
Duncan’s attorney, Brian Watkins, argues that the use of a 2000 law to include Duncan in the case is “absolutely unconstitutional” and a waste of taxpayers’ money by the district attorney.
The evidence against Duncan, Watkins said, consists of his rap album and pictures on a social media page of him and several other defendants. The latter is not surprising, he said, given the fact Duncan grew up in San Diego in a neighborhood with gang members.
Duncan’s album does not encourage violence, Watkins said.
“It’s no different than Snoop Dogg or Tupac,” he said. “It’s telling the story of street life,” with gritty details and obscenity-filled language.
“If we are trying to criminalize artistic expression, what’s next, Brian De Palma and Al Pacino?” Watkins said after visiting with his client in county jail.
“Every drug gangster loves ‘Scarface.’ Does it encourage violence?” asked Watkins, a reference to the 1983 movie directed by De Palma and starring Pacino.
Watkins made the same argument in San Diego County Superior Court. But a judge this week ordered Duncan and other defendants to stand trial.
The district attorney’s office declined comment on the case.
But in court, Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Campagna noted of the case against Duncan, “We’re not just talking about an album of anything, of love songs.” The cover shows a revolver with bullets, Campagna told the judge.
Trial is set to begin Dec. 4. Duncan remains in jail in lieu of $1-million bail. If convicted, he could face a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, Watkins said.
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