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Beanie Sigel: Hip-Hop’s Next Federal Case? Part 1

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The story behind Beanie Sigel’s incarceration is simple, judicially speaking. The Philadelphia rapper was convicted for gun possession and is currently serving a one-year sentence in prison. Accounts from those close to Beanie’s situation suggests that the legal scars are much more complex, a result of longtime pursuit by Philadelphia police and an extensive federal probe into Beanie’s alleged drug ties. 

In what some might read as a conspiracy against Hip-Hop, or more like scenes straight out of HBO’s “The Wire,” reports indicate that the federal government may have launched an investigation into Sigel’s possible drug connections in Philadelphia.

Most Rap fans are aware of the street pasts many rappers have been entangled in—through songs or straight from the artists’ mouths. But lately, the feds have visibly interceded to expose illegal activity, launching broad investigations into Murder Inc., taking on Lil’ Kim’s perjury trial, and now perhaps suggesting that Beanie Sigel never quite renounced the street life he so vividly depicts in his rhymes.

 One Philly reporter says he has received concrete confirmation from law enforcement that says the feds are looking closely at the self-proclaimed “Broad Street Bully.”

 Steve Volk, a journalist for the Philadelphia Weekly, has been covering Sigel’s recurring legal troubles in the South Philly area, conversing with the rapper on several occasions for stories in the Weekly and Rolling Stone. From what he has gathered, Sigel, whose real name is Dwight Grant, is suspected to be actively involved in illegal narcotic sales in Philly despite his musical success.  

“Most rappers talk about how they used music to get off the streets,” Volk told AllHipHop.com. “[Authorities] were claiming that this guy had used it to buy a brick of cocaine and get more involved in the streets.” Volk said not only have police sources informed him that Sigel was indeed the focus of a federal drug investigation, but high level officials within the Philadelphia Police Department confirmed that they had been in contact with feds looking for information on Sigel.  

Others like Sigel’s lawyer maintain that no evidence of a federal investigation exists. Beanie’s lawyer, Fortunato Perri has rebutted Volk’s claims. “I’m not aware of anything other than a couple of newspaper articles [that] quote unnamed sources,” Perri told AllHipHop.com. “That’s completely, utterly ridiculous. There’s no merit to those allegations whatsoever.”

 However, Volk said he met with high-ranking local officials and was shown various documents confirming that the investigation existed. In a Philadelphia Weekly article published in July 2003, a high-ranking police source told Volk that South Philly police believed Beanie to be engaged in drug trafficking around 20th and Sigel Street in South Philly.

“I would have to believe that the investigation is still ongoing, because no one had told me that it stopped,” said Volk. “It doesn’t mean that Beanie Sigel’s actually a drug dealer. It just means that he’s being investigated for it.”

Perri combats, “I’ve been involved in representation for about two to two-and-a-half years now. I’m in touch with agents, assistant U.S. attorneys, assistant district attorneys, Philadelphia police, and I have not been made aware of a scintilla of evidence that shows that he’s involved in any type of drug activity.”

Volk’s response: "It’s Fred Perri’s job to say the investigation is bogus. That’s how he gets paid."

Caught Up

After years of legal embroilment, last October Sigel finally succumbed, appearing at the U.S. Federal Courthouse to receive sentencing on the federal gun charge he pleaded guilty to six months earlier.

 Sigel, still on probation at the time as a result of a 1995 conviction for dealing crack, was apprehended by Philadelphia police officers on the morning of April 20, 2003 following a high-speed car chase and pursuit on foot. As the story goes, two patrol cops noticed Beans around 2 a.m. in a car with no yellow registration sticker. When the cops signaled Sigel to pull over, the rapper allegedly hit the gas.

 According to reports, Sigel tossed a loaded handgun out his car window during the chase. He was found in possession of cough medicine, more than twenty pills of Percocet—also known as "pancakes and syrup"—and more than twenty pills of Xanax. The rapper entered rehab shortly thereafter.  

The feds, who typically select which local cases to take on, adopted Sigel’s gun charge in what could be viewed as the first step in a broader federal investigation. According to Sigel’s lawyer, Fred Perri, the federal government in the Eastern district of Pennsylvania identifies certain state court arrests they want to take on based on nonspecific criteria.  

“It’s just whatever cases they deem appropriate for federal adoption. After they review them, they will adopt the prosecution and that’s what happened here,” said Perri. “I don’t think that [Beanie] was specifically singled out more than anybody else.”

Robert Reed, chief of the Eastern District’s firearms section, told Volk in 2003 that in general, the feds choose to prosecute “individuals with substantial criminal histories, indication of being involved in violence, people involved in drug distribution [and] people involved in violent drug organizations.” 

Said Reed: “The bottom line is that [Sigel] is a felon. Many people violate that statute and carry firearms despite their felon status, so we don’t bring every case. He met the criteria."  

Lieut. Mike Chitwood, who was involved in Sigel’s attempted murder case, called the rapper an anomaly. "Sigel straddles the line between legitimate talent and thug," Chitwood told Volk. "He can’t say, ‘I had run-ins with the law, but I’m using that experience and my talent to get out of that life.’ He seems to want to live the life represented in his videos, but there aren’t going to be any happy endings for him." 

A Criminal Past

 In 2003 alone, Beanie faced separate charges of assault, gun-possession and attempted murder, stemming from a July incident where he allegedly fired about six shots at a man in front of Philadelphia’s Pony Tail Go-Go Bar. 

A retrial on the attempted murder charge is still pending; the first trial was declared a mistrial last spring. An investigator on the case said Sigel knew the man he was accused of shooting, Terrence Speller, for several years, and witnesses told police that the two were shaking hands shortly before the shooting.

“You got two witnesses, one victim, and both of their stories are conflicting and both are saying the other is lying,” Sigel told AllHipHop.com in September 2004. “You’re never going to have a fair trial because people are already making up their minds about you.”

Little is known of another incident back in February 1993, except that gunshots were fired and no one was convicted. Sigel’s account was that he and a longtime friend were walking down 18th and Tasker in Philadelphia when they passed an off-duty cop. Sigel’s friend and the officer exchanged words, after which the cop passed his gun to a civilian and told him to watch Sigel, the rapper recalled.

As things between the cop and Sigel’s friend got heated, Beanie said he jumped in and got shot twice in the leg. The civilian, who was later charged and acquitted, allegedly shot Sigel’s friend in the back and the cop in the foot. “Obviously one of the questions that comes up is if the officer was able to pull his gun, why isn’t he able to shoot it himself, why would he pass it to someone else,” said Volk.

During this particular episode, Sigel’s mom Michelle Brown-Derry stated that a police lieutenant and a district attorney had informed her of an ongoing investigation of the officer involved. But according to Michelle, the investigation ceased after she told the media, and the officer was never charged. Last October, Beanie revealed his suspicion that Philadelphia police had been aggressively seeking revenge against him.

 "They want payback because my friend said he sued them and they had to pay. My brother said they planted drugs on him and they got caught and had to pay for that, too,” Sigel told Stuff magazine. "So they have no wins. They want to say, ‘We finally got this motherf**ker.’" Beanie’s lawyer Perri said the rapper made no indication of his beliefs of revenge.  

According to Volk, Philly police have dismissed, even laughed off notions of a conspiracy or personal vendetta against Sigel. Calls to the local Philadelphia police department’s public affairs representative, Inspector Colarulo, were not returned.  

Click here for Part 2

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