Tekashi69 released early from prison due to coronavirus pandemic

Tribune Content Agency

NEW YORK — Tekashi69 is out of prison thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

A judge ordered the notorious rapper-turned-cooperator be released early from his two-year sentence because his asthma makes him particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Judge Paul Engelmayer sprung Tekashi, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, from a private prison in Jamaica, Queens. The order made public Thursday came after more than a week of unsuccessful efforts by Tekashi’s defense team to persuade the Bureau of Prisons to let him out early from his two-year sentence scheduled to end Aug. 1.

Once those efforts failed, Engelmayer — who had written he was concerned about Tekashi’s asthma and the risk of an outbreak behind bars — was able to order his release. The Brooklyn-born hip-hop star will technically serve the first four months of his five-year sentence of supervised release on home confinement.

Tekashi was being held in protective custody in the Queens Detention Facility because he faced a high likelihood of retaliation for his betrayal of the Nine Trey Bloods. The prison is operated by a publicly traded company, GEO Group, that had $2.5 billion in revenue last year.

An employee at the facility said Tekashi had left the prison by a rear exit about 90 minutes before Engelmayer’s order was made public.

The judge ordered that release of his decision, which he signed on Wednesday, be delayed until authorities could ensure Tekashi was safely at an undisclosed location.

The rapper’s defense team wrote in court filings he would live with his mother and other family.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is extraordinary and unprecedented in modern times in this nation. It presents a clear and present danger to free society for reasons that need no elaboration. COVID-19 presents a heightened risk for incarcerated defendants like Mr. Hernandez with respiratory ailments such as asthma,” Engelmayer wrote. “The Centers for Disease Control warns that persons with asthma are at high risk of serious illness if they contract the disease. Further, the crowded nature of municipal jails such as the facility in which Mr. Hernandez is housed present an outsize risk that the COVID-19 contagion, once it gains entry, will spread. And, realistically, a high-risk inmate who contracts the virus while in prison will face challenges in caring for himself.”

Prosecutors did not oppose Tekashi’s request for “compassionate release.”

The rapper’s plans now that he’s out of prison are unclear. He reportedly signed a $10 million record deal while locked up. A marketing company was among those lobbying the Bureau of Prisons for his release, records show.

The order from Engelmayer was preceded by a flurry of court filings from Tekashi’s defense team documenting his pleas for release.

Tekashi had been stuck in an unusual bureaucratic cul de sac because he is not technically in Bureau of Prisons custody at the private prison.

The musician behind hits like “GUMMO” and “FEFE” cooperated with prosecutors against his former friends in Nine Trey. He took the stand for the government last year against two gang members — a decision that resulted in death threats and confinement in protective custody.


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