Florida Court Acquits Man of Using Rap for Gang Recruitment

‘By Lora Neng
October 26, 2011

It is one thing to accuse hip-hop as a bad public influence promoting money and power to aggrandize the gang life, and quite another to impose charges for furthering the unlawful activities of a specific gang. In Polk County’s “Operation Rap It Up,” 29-year-old Daniel “Lucky” Barajas was accused of the latter for releasing a video with images of gang-affiliated colors, tattoos, and signs. He and three other suspects were charged with Unlawful Use of Electronic Communications and Recruiting Gang Membership a little over a year ago. The three other suspects worked out a plea deal with authorities, while Barajas maintained his innocence, and his perseverance has finally paid off.

Barajas was acquitted of charges of furthering criminal gang activity, a third-degree felony that could have resulted in 5 years in prison, on Tuesday. Florida prosecutors argued that Barajas was appealing to viewers by depicting himself as a member of the Westside 7, but his attorney Gail Cheatwood maintained that gangster rap is a form of artistic expression. The Court in Bartow ruled in favor of Barajas to protect his rights to freedom of speech.

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