An Online Prophet With a Huge Following Has Been Convicted of Child Abuse

Now, his most ardent followers are spinning new conspiracy theories about his case.
Rashad Jamal
Rashad Jamal mid-lecture. Screenshot via YouTube.

Rashad Jamal, a New Age prophet with a huge online following among esoteric Black communities, has been convicted of child molestation and cruelty to children. According to court documents obtained by Motherboard, a Georgia judge sentenced him to 18 years in prison and 22 more on probation, for a total of 40 years. 

Jamal is among the most influential in a group of loosely affiliated spiritual influencers with large followings on Instagram and Tiktok. (Jamal has more than 84,000 followers on Instagram, nearly 176,000 on Tiktok, and 50,000 subscribers on YouTube.) As Motherboard has previously reported, several of his most ardent followers have themselves been arrested, sometimes in confrontations with police and the public stemming from their unusual beliefs, including two cases involving murder. His conviction has immediately generated new conspiracy theories among his most devoted followers, who insist that the case against him is designed to quell his spiritual power and reach.  


Jamal, whose legal last name is White, was convicted of one count of child molestation and one count of cruelty to children in the first degree; he was found not guilty on another count of child molestation. The child he was convicted of abusing is the child of his previous romantic partner, Darshell Smith, with whom he also has a son. Smith previously told VICE that she’s been subject to harassment and threats from Jamal’s followers after going to the police, which she did after her child disclosed the abuse to her.

Jamal is the latest in a series of New Age influencers who blend ideas about Black self-determination with unusual, sometimes bizarre beliefs. He claims to be a semi-divine being brought back to Earth to heal the planet, says Black and Latino people are gods and goddesses, accuses NBA players of being synthetic robots, says the government is modifying the weather, and repeats a variety of anti-vaccine talking points. His online platform, the University of Cosmic Intelligence, sells videos of his lectures as well as crystals and jewelry, and has marketed in-person mass meditations; it’s also a home for his rap videos. (Jamal previously had a more conventional career track as an up-and-coming rapper.) 

Among the people who have followed Jamal’s work are Yasmine Hider and Krystal Pinkins; Hider is accused of shooting a motorist, Adam Simjee, during an August 2022 confrontation in a state park in Alabama. Pinkins is accused of watching from the woods during the shooting and then fleeing, leading police to what they initially described as an off-grid community living in tents in the woods; they also found Pinkins’ five-year-old child wielding a shotgun. Both Pinkins and Hider are now under federal indictment and facing trial; mental health evaluations have been ordered for both women. (The U.S. Forest Service told Motherboard it was “not aware” of an off-grid community.)


In another case, a follower of Jamal’s named Damien Washam, who also lived in Alabama, is accused of killing his mother with a ninja-style sword. In the leadup to the killing, Washam’s father told us, he’d become increasingly immersed in Jamal’s content, ordering edged weapons online, jewelry from Jamal’s UCI, and developing obsessions with things like Egyptian gods and the underworld that Jamal discusses in his content. (Jamal does not advocate for murder or overt violence of any kind, and it remains unclear what other factors may have led to Washam’s alleged violence against his mother.) 

Jamal’s imprisonment created anger and consternation among his fans, who insisted he was being set up by undisclosed and powerful forces; an online petition seeking his release garnered some 9,000 signatures, and more people continue to sign it to this day. After Jamal was convicted, his Twitter account, which Motherboard believes to be run by his wife, tweeted, “HAWAII ON FIRE & LA FLOODING AND I WAS FOUND GUILTY UNRIGHTEOUSLY. LET THIS BE A SIGN THAT THE FORCES WILL FIGHT FOR HE WHO THEY SENT.” The statement was signed “Divine Insight,” another moniker Jamal uses. Jamal’s wife used his Instagram account to briefly go live, appearing to be in tears as she began speaking. Among other things, she told his followers, “The evidence was tampered [with]. There were no evidence.” (Jamal’s wife and followers have also said online that he got 16 years in prison, which seems to account for the 15 months he has already served in jail, which the judge credited in the sentencing documents.)

Across social media, Jamal’s followers took his conviction as proof that spiritually powerful Black people are targeted by the political establishment; on TikTok, many of them shared his previous videos, in which he warned “that they was coming for him,” as one person wrote. (Darshell Smith, whose child was abused by Jamal, is also Black; she previously told Motherboard, “After everything we’ve been through, why would a Black mother come and lie on a Black man who’s supposedly trying to uplift the people in a positive way?”) 

While Jamal’s imprisonment is undoubtedly a setback for him, it gives new grist for the mill of similarly positioned online influencers, who can talk about his case to gain new followers—and, perhaps, set themselves up to take on a bit of his audience. One would-be influencer, calling himself “I Am Ra,” urged his TikTok followers to “stay on mission,” rather than trying to “break him out” of jail. Jamal’s University of Cosmic Intelligence page, meanwhile, implored his followers to send money, buy his crystals online and stream his album in support. 

“Rashad Jamal got 16 years of jail time for speaking against the real oppressors! Stay spiritual,” a video posted on Jamal’s TikTok page, said in text posted on top of a still image of him. “Stay dangerous. Its [sic] war.”

An attorney for Jamal acknowledged a request for comment from Motherboard before his trial began, but has not, to date, provided any comment on his behalf.