New York Governor Pardons Rapper Slick Rick

Rapper Slick Rick was issued an official pardon by New York Governor David A. Paterson today (May 23), in a final attempt to prevent the pioneering rapper from being deported to the United Kingdom.

The 43-year-old rapper has been locked in a battle in Federal Immigration Court fighting deportation, due to a 1991 conviction on two counts of attempted murder and weapons offenses.

Slick Rick, born Ricky Walters, is facing deportation due to a federal statute that requires a lawful resident alien to be removed from the country upon conviction of an aggravated felony or a weapon offense.

In some cases, removal can be avoided with a Governor's pardon, but for a weapons offense, a non-citizen must still seek discretionary relief from deportation from the Federal Immigration Court.

"Mr. Walters has fully served the sentence imposed upon him for his convictions, had an exemplary disciplinary record while in prison and on parole, and has been living without incident in the community for more than 10 years," said Governor Paterson. "In that time, he has volunteered at youth outreach programs to counsel youth against violence, and has become a symbol of rehabilitation for many young people. Given these demonstrated rehabilitative efforts, I urge federal immigration officials to once again grant Mr. Walters relief from deportation, so that he is not separated from his many family members who are United States citizens, including his two teenage children."

Slick Rick was born in the U.K. but was lawfully admitted into the United States at age 11, where he was raised in the Bronx.

"My family and I are eternally thankful to Governor Paterson, my attorneys Michael Krinsky and Craig Kaplan at Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman and to all of the people who have supported me throughout the past seventeen years," Slick Rick told in a statement. "This has been a long and difficult road and I am happy for this to be settled once and for all. I look forward to enjoying this time with my family and friends and to continue leading an honest and productive life."

In 1991, the pioneering rapper fan afoul of the law, when during a dispute, he shot his cousin and an innocent bystander, both of whom survived the shooting.

The shooting was in response to a series of threats his cousin made that the rapper believed were going to be carried out, due to an alleged previous attempt on his life.

Walters, then 25, pleaded guilty to the attempted murder and weapons counts and was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison.

He served a total of five years and 33 days in prison, 33 days more than statutorily permitted for a waiver of inadmissibility.

Slick Rick was released from prison in 1997, but was jailed again in 2002, after performing on a Caribbean cruise ship, as he attempted to reenter the United States in Florida.

He was released from federal immigration prison in November of 2003, after serving a total of 17 additional months.

The Department of Homeland Security recently moved the case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit based in New York to the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta, although Slick Rick is expected to be tried in Florida, where he was originally arrested attempting to reenter the country.