Rappers who threatened Pittsburgh police sentenced to prison
An East Liberty man asked the Allegheny County judge sentencing him to see him as a high school graduate and aspiring musician rather than his hip hop persona, “Mayhem Mal,” who posted a rap video online threatening to kill Pittsburgh police officers.
“As a rapper, you have to own an image,” said Jamal T. Knox, 19. “I have to be this person to be successful.”
Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning sentenced Knox to two to six years in prison and two years of probation for drug charges, fleeing police and terroristic threats.
The judge sentenced Knox's cohort, Rashee Beasley, 22, of Garfield — Knox's producer and accomplice, who goes by the rap name “Soulja Beaz” — to one to three years in prison and two years of probation for fleeing police and terroristic threats.
Both men will be credited with about 11 months for time served.
Police accused Knox and Beasley of making the rap video and posting it to Facebook and YouTube in November 2012. The song referenced convicted cop killer Richard Poplawski and two police officers who arrested them on gun and drug charges seven months earlier. Knox and Beasley's attorneys argued the speech was protected under the First Amendment. Manning disagreed.
“This isn't about freedom of speech,” Manning said. “It clearly was intimidation of witnesses. It clearly was terroristic threats.”
Civil rights attorneys, however, said the duo may have a case for an appeal since there was no “clear and present threat” to the officers.
“It's close to the line,” said Downtown attorney Samuel J. Cordes. “They were expressing a view, however unpopular that it may be. On the other side of the coin, they did it while awaiting trial about the officers who were going to testify against them.”
Knox's attorney, Almon S. Burke Jr., said he was not sure his client will appeal.
Assistant District Attorney Rachel Fleming argued that the men should receive long sentences because of their lifestyle of “drugs, guns and money.” Fleming said the men fled from police in a stolen car, in which officers found drugs and a gun. Knox was convicted on drug charges. Both men were acquitted of gun charges.
Knox said his rap career, for which he has gained some local and national notoriety, started from his interest in poetry, which he used as an outlet for anger problems. Knox said he writes about issues that include relationships, his family, God and his frustrations with police.
“Your honor, I take full responsibility for all my actions. I want to let the whole Zone 5 police district know the song on YouTube was not intentional,” he said. “I'm sorry if any officers felt threatened. ... I apologize for putting the police in danger.”
Beasley didn't address the court, other than to say he had “stage fright.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Script is it: Classic Pitt helmet design to return
- Penguins notebook: Carcillo has no hard feelings after failing to make roster
- Running against Obama
- Steelers notebook: Shazier returns just in time
- Fire at Dollar General in Rostraver under control, dispatchers say
- News Alert
- Line painting on I-79 set for weekend
- Hatchet attack was terror, NYPD says
- White House callous toward American lives
- NFL notebook: Colts WR Wayne out for Sunday’s game at Steelers
- Hospital’s hero & more