Fetty Wap, a New Jersey rapper who rose to fame with his hit “Trap Queen,” an ode to romance entangled in drug trafficking, was sentenced to six years in federal prison on Wednesday for dealing narcotics across the country.
The singer, whose legal name is Willie Junior Maxwell II, 31, has been in custody since his bail was dropped in August, after prosecutors said he, during a FaceTime call, displayed a firearm and threatened to kill someone. He later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.
On Wednesday, he appeared before Judge Joanna Seybert in federal court in Central Islip, NY, to receive a one year longer term than the minimum. Mr Maxwell waved to the roughly 20 family members and friends attending the sentencing as he entered the courtroom wearing a cream-colored overalls, his dreadlocks pulled back over his face.
His attorney, Elizabeth Macedonio, argued that Mr Maxwell had been supporting many relatives and children and that he needed money to support them after the pandemic ended live entertainment. Mr Maxwell himself apologized to the communities and families of the drug users he had hurt.
“I just want to help my family,” said Mr. Maxwell to the judge. “I never asked myself if everything was true.”
Prosecutors argued long term, saying he had used his fame to glorify drug trafficking while making millions from his music after “Trap Queen” was released in 2015. They pointed to the use of children as extras in the song. music video and noted the amount of media attention this case received.
Christopher Caffarone, a prosecutor, on Wednesday asked judges to remember the “additional consequences” of drug abuse and pointed out that many people have suffered during the pandemic, but “they have not turned into poison peddlers.”
Judge Seybert called the case one of the most difficult he had had to decide in his 30 years on the bench, noting that Mr Maxwell overcame obstacles to achieve “tremendous fame” – only to throw him out. He notices his loving and supportive family, many of whom have written to him, and his relationship with his children. But his crimes were serious, and his actions while out on bail raised serious questions, he said.
“The thing you can't avoid is that there are other options,” he said.
In March, one of Mr Maxwell's defendants, Anthony Cyntje, a former New Jersey corrections officer, was sentenced to six years for acting as a cocaine courier. Maxwell's remaining four defendants pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Mr. Maxwell, who is from Paterson, NJ, and lost his left eye to congenital glaucoma, was at the peak of his musical success when he was selling drugs. “Trap Queen,” which features a signature blend of singing and rapping, has reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 2015. Music site Pitchfork describe his the “evil melodious singing voice” as a “shrilling, startling instrument.” He was nominated for two Grammys the following year and appeared on the VH1 reality show “Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood.”
In court Wednesday, Ms. Macedonio reveals the obstacles previously faced by Mr. Maxwell, including constant bullying due to glaucoma and drug addiction before starting his music career with the group Remy Boyz. Then “Trap Queen” came off the air.
“Suddenly the kid from Paterson, the kid who shouldn't be going anywhere, is in the national spotlight,” he said.
He noted that the charges involved only a six-month period of activity and accused prosecutors of trying to use his fame against him in their argument for a longer sentence, saying it represented a “total decision” between law enforcement and the music world.
Since August, he has been held under protection at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, fearing that he will become the target of his fame.
After Maxwell's arrest, he rushed to put on as many shows as he could to make money for his family before what he knew would be a lengthy prison sentence, he said.
Even when the case was pending, Mr. Maxwell released a slow R&B jam called “Sweet Potato”. Prosecutor said it was code for drugs.