Rice said he wasn’t deciding whether Diamond Cut — who the judge said had 15 to 20 members sentenced in federal court on gun and drug charges — was such a gang, but that the government hadn’t proven that point.
“I love music more than I love myself. I’m an artist. The world is my canvas, and I paint what I see,” Winn said, later adding. “I’m a lot of things. I’m no saint. Furthermore, I’m not the leader of no gang.”
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The lack of gang leader status should lead to less restrictive imprisonment, according to Rion and Rice.
Winn pleaded guilty in June to one of six gun- or drug-related counts in an indictment against multiple co-defendants and to a sentence of at least five years in prison. The non-binding advisory range that Rice adopted was for a sentence from eight years and one month to 10 years and one month.
Rice said Winn’s good work in the community — running Easter egg hunts, providing Christmas presents to needy families, etc. —showed Winn to be intelligent, with a “kind heart” and a “kind soul” that generated about 25 letters of support, including from those in the Shelby County Jail where Winn is housed.
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The judge said those facts made the case even more frustrating.
“The fact remains, he’s a drug dealer,” Rice said. “And not just any kind of drug dealer, he’s a dealer in poison.”
Prosecutors had sought to use Winn’s lyrics and self-styled autobiography as a factor in sentencing, but Rose ruled that the material — true, false or some of each — wasn’t considered.
But Rice did say the lyrics, videos and stories exalting drug dealing, guns and denigrating women were the exact opposite of what is needed in neighborhoods where Winn is idolized. Winn said stories were fictionalized to attract an audience.
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“To say that book and (Winn’s) rap videos don’t glorify the drug trade is naive,” Rice said. “Totally naive.”
Rion said Winn “is a person who honestly cares about family, about community” but acknowledged that didn’t square with selling that community drugs. “He’s a mixed bag. I understand that.
“There is not a lot of infliction of punishment that is necessary to change his soul.”
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Assistant U.S. attorney Brent Tabacchi said Winn was a successful musician with talent and a God-given ability to earn money legitimately. Tabacchi said Winn’s crimes were not a one- or two-day thing, but five months.
“It was pure greed,” Tabacchi said. “There was no need for him to go out and deal drugs to make ends meet.”
Winn said he was frustrated by his race.
“I know we can do better, and that’s why I’m so disappointed in myself,” before answering a question from Rice about why he sold drugs if he was doing well with his music. “I made a mistake. It was about living up to the expectation.”
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