For the duration of Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s second term, she has deployed the practically omnipotent power of the state to persecute a rap group. In tandem with her corrupt allies in the Sheriff’s Department, the D.A.’s office has shamelessly manipulated antiquated legal codes, brazenly warped the truth, and engaged in a level of fear mongering racism that you’d expect in the Jim Crow South.
The target in question, Drakeo the Ruler, and his crew, The Stinc Team, have lost years of their lives and incalculable sums of money defending themselves from a ceaseless barrage of charges, many of them frivolous, amplified by gang enhancements that threaten life sentences for even relatively minor crimes. Lacey’s office has used the rappers’ lyrics against them, prosecuted them for holding guns in their music videos, and pursued 25-to-life punishments for spray painting. The docket of cases is so sprawling and convoluted that it would take thousands of words to begin to unspool the gross miscarriages of justice.
One of the most gifted artists to emerge from L.A. in decades, the South Central-raised Drakeo was acquitted of several first-degree murder and attempted murder charges in 2019. The jury hung on two of the roughly dozen counts arrayed against him: shooting from a motor vehicle and a rarely used and dubiously constitutional gang conspiracy law. Both votes went in the defendant’s favor. In a more just and equitable system, the prosecutors would’ve opted not to refile, considering their resounding defeat and the fact that no one ever alleged that Drakeo was the actual shooter. Instead, their bloodlust has only intensified. They are proceeding with a second trial in pursuit of what amounts to de facto double jeopardy. To compound the punitive nature of their quest, they continue to incarcerate Drakeo at the downtown Men’s Central Jail in K-19 — a form of solitary confinement — without the option of bail.
Most recently, Drakeo’s judge, a former colleague of Lacey’s, imposed a gag order so absolute that he’s been denied all contact with the outside world apart from tightly restricted phone calls with his lawyers. Shortly before he was silenced, he explained the fundamental inequities of the L.A. County criminal justice system, the urgent need for reform, and the necessity of voting Jackie Lacey out of office this November.
By Drakeo the Ruler, as told to Jeff Weiss
It’s difficult to express how terrible Jackie Lacey has been over the last eight years. Let’s just start with how vicious her office has been towards Black and Brown people. I myself have known hundreds of people who accepted gang enhancements and plea deals for stuff that they didn’t even do — just to go home.
What most people don’t realize is that many people plead guilty to gang enhancements because they’re offered the chance to go home based on time served. You think that if you take a gang enhancement it’s okay, but if you get arrested again, an otherwise petty charge becomes extremely serious. You can’t say that you’re not a gang member now because you’ve already admitted that you were. So then you’re facing major sentences for minor crimes. The maximum sentence for intimidating a witness is two to three years — which ends up being about 16 months with halftime. With a gang enhancement, you could potentially be facing life in prison. It’s just another trap to keep you in the system.
Take the first time that I was arrested as an adult in 2014. I was 19 years old and the Sheriff’s Department pulled us over. I don’t even know why. The driver was right in front of the homie’s house, parked in the driveway. Right as we were about to get out of the car, the lights came on. I was like, “What the fuck is going on?” They searched us all and found some Xanax pills in the car. Nobody wanted to say whose they were. I was on summary probation due to a juvenile case, and because I was on probation, they told me that the pills were mine. There wasn’t even that many pills in the car, but they booked me for sales.
They charged me with a felony, but at the time, I didn’t know exactly what that meant. All I knew was that if I pled guilty, I could go home with just probation. I had a public defender and he told me that it was a good deal and I should take it. I’m 19, I’m like, “Hell yeah, give it to me.” I didn’t even think about hiring a lawyer because it was like, “What should I get a lawyer for? They’re talking about me going home right now.”
People think it’s not that serious just because they’re going to let you go home. The problem is that if you come back to court, it’s like, “You already have a felony for this.” I only served seven days in jail, but it fucked me over in the long run.
Jackie Lacey has played a big part in all of this. From my understanding, this is how she wants things to be done. For the longest time, I didn’t even know she was Black. I really thought she was a white lady. When I found out that she was Black, I was shocked. There definitely can be Black faces on white supremacy. It’s like she feels that she’s better than us. It’s weird. You’d think that when a Black person gets into a position of power, they’d see other Black people as all being the same — that all of us are equal. But that’s not how it goes.
Look at how much more the police pull over Black people than anyone else. That’s a fact. You might be at your granny’s house and they’ll jump out on you: “Oh, you’re on probation or parole, what are you doing over here?” You’ll say, “This is my granny’s house.” They’ll say, “Do you mind if we can take your name down real quick. Oh, and by the way, where do you stay at?”
People think that they’re just taking down your information so they can know who you are. But no, they’re taking your information so they can put you in the gang database — where if they stop you over here again, they’re going to say that you’re gang affiliated. You’re thinking, “Oh they’re just taking information down just in case I have an outstanding warrant.” That’s not what they’re doing.
The first time that I was taken to adult jail was two days before my 13th birthday. I stole a dollar from a tip jar. Even the probation officers at the jail were like, “They brought you over here for this?” I was arrested again at 16 and given a juvenile felony for stealing a bottle of liquor from Ralphs: the type of shit that typical white people do when they’re kids. I had dropped a bag and tried to walk away. Suddenly, one of the loss prevention people came from behind and started choking me out. I don’t know if he was trying to put me to sleep or what, but my arm went back and I hit his shoulder while he was choking me, and this is what he told me: “This is good. I’m going to write this down as a robbery now.” I was like, “What the fuck?”
My lawyer was a terrible public defender and tried to convince me to take a juvenile felony strike, which he said wouldn’t matter because I was still a kid. He was like, “Well, they’re going to give it to you anyway, so take it.” So I did and it still affects me. [Several months ago, Drakeo’s judge used this juvenile strike as the pretext to hang a six-year sentence over his head in connection to his lone conviction in the last trial — a possession of unlawful firearms by a felon charge that was unrelated to the murder case] .
You have no idea how many people I know who are in jail for bullshit reasons. Once they get you in the system, you’re on probation. There are restrictions where and who you can hang out with. And if you violate them, you’re back in jail. But you’re really not coming to jail for no crime, you’re just coming to jail for probation violations. However, on the record it seems like you’re always in-and-out of jail.
In my mind, 90% of this is because of white supremacism. Even if they have swastikas tattooed on them, how many white people do you see with gang enhancements? When any Black person or Mexican person — and even Asians too — are arrested they always make sure to throw that gang enhancement on there. Most of the time they’re not even active gang members. You just might be in the wrong place at the wrong time with somebody you grew up with.
If a white person goes and shoots up a school or something, they don’t say, “Oh, he did it for the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Brotherhood.” They never say that, they’re just like, “Oh man, he’s deranged. He got bullied when he was a kid.” But when it’s a Black person, they’re just like, “he had to do it for a gang!”
First of all, Black people don’t do nothing for gangs, let’s just get that clear. There is no unity, there is no, “Oh, we’re going to go out and do this and share the money with each other.” It doesn’t happen; it does not work like that. I was just talking to the homie on the bus, he was like, “they talking about some gang enhancement? First of all, we don’t live by those rules; we don’t share nothing with each other.” There is no “I’m going to go give this to Big Meech because he’s the big guy.’” No, you’re not getting shit.
It’s important to vote for George Gascon in November because he’s a flat out better option than Jackie Lacey. It seems like he understands how unfair these gang laws are and how the police and D.A.’s abuse them. It seems like he has his head on straight. Jackie Lacey certainly doesn’t care. Her husband is pulling out fucking guns on Black Lives Matter protestors.
It seems like Gascon is aware of all the corruption. He might feel like he really can help. I really hope he does. At the end of the day, he’s a prosecutor, but it seems like he sees it from both sides. I hope he’d start prosecuting these fucking police if he does win. Living as a Black person, you’re always worried the police will shoot you. It started when I was 13 and we were playing with BB guns and someone called the police. The next thing you knew, there were guns being pointed at us. We were little-ass kids and they would’ve gunned us down.
Gascon has experience on all sides. He was a police officer so he knows how much they lie. He was a police chief and the D.A. in San Francisco. Honestly, I can’t say it enough: anybody is better than Jackie Lacey.
This election in November is really really important. Look at all the stuff going on right now from Trump, to the murders by police, to what Jackie Lacey has been doing. This should show you how important it is. We can actually change shit that’s going on if we vote Jackie Lacey out of office. It’s not just for you, it’s for your brothers and sisters and cousins, so we can live in a world where we don’t have to live in fear of the police and a D.A. who does their bidding.
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