T.I. pleads with federal judge to avoid prison

After violating probation, the rapper admits he needs help for drug addiction and asks for mercy

Published October 15, 2010 8:19PM (EDT)

Rapper T.I. is asking a federal judge not to send him back to prison for violating his probation.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office says T.I. said during Friday's hearing that he needs help for drug addiction and asked the judge for mercy.

T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr., was in court following his arrest last month in Los Angeles on suspicion of drug possession. He is on probation after serving 10 months behind bars on federal weapons charges.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates urged the judge to consider a sentence of two years in prison.

The Associated Press was relying on information from the spokesman because the judge closed the courtroom after it was filled and several media outlets, including AP, were not allowed in.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

ATLANTA (AP) -- T.I.'s help in talking down a suicidal man from an Atlanta skyscraper may also help the rapper's image as he faces the possibility of returning to federal prison after prosecutors say he violated his probation.

T.I. is scheduled to appear in court on Friday to explain to a federal judge why he should stay out of prison. If found guilty of violating his probation, T.I.'s attorneys say he should face at most between five and 11 months in prison.

He served a 10-month sentence behind bars and a halfway house after pleading guilty to federal weapons charges from a 2006 arrest and was released in March. The multiplatinum-selling artist, whose real name is Clifford Harris, was in the midst of personal and professional success when he and his wife were arrested Sept. 1 on suspicion of drug possession.

News of his arrest and the pending hearing dominated headlines until Wednesday afternoon, when T.I. joined the crowd gathered outside a 22-story office building in Atlanta and told officers he wanted to help a man who was threatening to jump after hearing about the situation on the radio in his car.

Authorities said the man agreed to come down in exchange for a few minutes face-to-face with T.I., who recorded a video of himself on a cell phone that was shown to the man by rescue workers to prove he was really there.

"Something in my heart told me to go there and help," T.I. said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press afterward. "I told him it ain't that bad. It'll get better, to put the time and effort into making it better. It looks bad right now, but it can turn around. I told him, 'You know I know.'"

T.I. said the idea that his willingness to help was a stunt to win favor with the judge was offensive.

"I honestly feel that God put me in the position to do what needed to be done," he said. "I was just there to help. I can't take no credit. This is God's work. I didn't have plans this morning to go down there like that."

A probation officer has recommended T.I. face eight to 14 months in prison. As a condition of his release earlier this year, he was ordered not to commit another federal, state or local crime while on supervised release, or to illegally possess a controlled substance. He was also told to take at least three drug tests after his release and to participate in a drug and alcohol treatment program.

Whether this week's good deed will factor into that explanation is unclear. Steve Sadow, one of T.I.'s attorneys, declined on Thursday to comment on the incident or if it would play a role in his client's defense.


Associated Press writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. contributed to this report.

By Errin Haines

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