Ask a Lawyer: What Do 6ix9ine's New Charges Mean for His Future?

The rapper was arrested on Monday in NYC on racketeering and firearms charges.
November 21, 2018, 5:06pm
6ix9ine in court

Just weeks after a handful of ongoing proceedings took 6ix9ine to court in two states, he has again found himself in the crosshairs of law enforcement. A press release issued by the United States Justice Department on Monday announced that 6ix9ine (along with five of the alleged co-conspirators who the indictment claims are Nine Trey Gangsta Blood gang members) had been indicted in federal court in New York on an array of previously undisclosed racketeering, assault and firearms charges. Tekashi 6ix9ine—whose real name is Daniel Hernandez—has made headlines in recent months as he faced legal charges in multiple jurisdictions, including for several assaults: against a teenager in a mall in Texas and against a police officer in Brooklyn, as well as for a violation of his 2015 plea agreement for using a child in a sexual performance.

What exactly are these charges?

The Justice Department laid out eight counts against the group of men in their indictment, Hernandez is named on six of them:

1. Racketeering Conspiracy—this charge alleges a violation of the “RICO” Act. The RICO Act allows for heightened penalties for crimes committed in the context of ongoing criminal organization (in this case, the organization is the Nine Trey gang). Meaningfully, introduction of this charge means that Hernandez could be found guilty for crimes that he ordered or knew about by virtue of being a part of the gang, but which he may have not actually committed.

2. The next count charges Hernandez with “using and carrying firearms, which were brandished and discharged, in connection with the racketeering conspiracy”—this is pretty self explanatory. Of note though, it comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

3. Counts three through five charge Hernandez (and others) with participating in an armed robbery that took place on the west side of Manhattan in April of this year, and

4. The final count charges Hernandez “with agreeing to shoot an individual who had shown disrespect to Nine Trey, resulting in an innocent bystander being shot,” in Brooklyn on or about July 16, 2018.

Although there don’t appear to be any drug related charges, the indictment alleges that the gang’s pattern of violence was executed in part “to protect the gang’s narcotic business” and notes that members of the gang “enriched themselves by committing robberies and selling drugs, such as heroin, fentanyl, furanly [sic] fentanyl, MDMA, dibutylone, and marijuana.”

How does this affect his earlier court proceedings?

Since Hernandez is currently on probation with regard to two assault cases, this arrest and pattern of continuing criminal activity could violate either parole agreement and land him back in court. This would be his second time violating parole with regard to the 2015 charge, so it is probably likely that a court would be less forgiving than it may have been in the past. TMZ also reported that he would face immediate jail time for violation of last week’s parole agreement stemming from the officer assault—but that doesn’t mean much as Hernandez’s most recent bail offer—surrendering his passport and $1.5 million dollars—was denied on Monday. The judge who denied his bail said that he saw his decision as a “close case” but erred on the side of caution because he thought Hernandez would be dangerous if released. He pointed specifically to an FBI raid in September of an apartment Hernandez had been renting where authorities found an AR-15 and stolen goods that connected him to the victim in the April robbery.

Other than that, penalties for the earlier charges pale in comparison to the ones set forth by the DOJ here, so while it doesn’t look good, his earlier crimes may not increase his jail time if the recent charges are successful.

What about those threats against him?

On Saturday, prior to the indictment, federal authorities brought Hernandez into their NY offices to inform him that they had, via wiretap, intercepted threats made against Hernandez’s life. The threats came after his Breakfast Club appearance in which he had claimed his booking agent was stealing and attempting to extort him. In the same interview, he publicly fired his manager (also one of his co-conspirators in the indictment) and announced he was canceling his tour.

Officers offered him protection services which he summarily declined—but the US attorney indicated after the indictment that authorities tailed him anyway for following two days. When they found out that he intended to travel outside of the jurisdiction to Connecticut, “prosecutors opted to ‘charge the case rather rapidly.’”

Why is this time different?

Well, for one, the Department of Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in the investigation—raising the stakes quite a bit higher than a state criminal investigation. Federal charges also carry more weight than if the charges had been brought in state criminal court—James Cohen, a criminal law professor from Fordham University told USA Today that “Federal courts are seen as a more sympathetic venue [for prosecutors]” and that “sentencing is, generally speaking, harsher in federal court.”

What could be next?

One thing is for sure, these charges ratchet Hernandez’s pending legal troubles into uncharted territory for him. Speaking to XXL this week, Hernandez’s lawyer stated that he believes the charges are excessive and will eventually be dismissed; he is appealing the refusal of his client’s bail. If he’s successful, and his client is in fact an innocent bystander, Hernandez could be vindicated. One implication of the racketeering charge is that if Hernandez is found guilty of it, his mere association and presence with others who may be guilty of actually committing crimes could be enough to incriminate him. Because of this, Hernandez faces an uphill battle in defending himself against this charge before addressing others.

Even before his arrest, Hernandez seemed aware of the fact that his connections would eventually bring him down—in his Breakfast Club interview he alludes to regret for hiring “his people” for managers and security instead of professionals; “it all came down on me.” In that same interview, he claimed that he was afraid of only two things “God and the FBI.” Indeed, one of them was onto him.

Jessica Meiselman is a lawyer and writer based in New York. Follow her on Twitter.